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Sidney councillors flip on initial support for dog grooming business

Pooch Parlour owner to seek space outside Sidney, rejects temporary use offer
Owner Kathy Banks with her dog Abby, flanked by employees Kaylyn Paterson (left) and Sherry Bell, and supported by husband James Anson (back), were all smiles when Sidney’s committee of the whole supported zoning and OCP amendments that could have allowed Pooch Parlour to operate on industrial-zoned land. That support dissolved by March 28, however, as council voted against the proposals. (Black Press Media file photo)

A pet grooming business remains closed for the foreseeable future after Sidney councillors withdrew previous support for amendments to the official community plan (OCP) and zoning that would have opened the door for it to operate legally on land zoned industrial.

While council meeting as committee of the whole voted to recommend the amendments applied for by Kathy Banks of Pooch Parlour, Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith and Coun. Scott Garnett switched their votes at the March 28 council meeting, joining Couns. Barbara Fallot and Terri O’Keeffe in opposing the recommendation.

Council instead passed motions proposed by McNeil-Smith (Garnett and Fallot were opposed) that would rezone the space on Malaview Road West for temporary use, while inviting Banks to apply for a temporary use permit good for one year from its issuance, a process not without costs and bureaucratic hurdles.

According to Sidney staff, the flat fee for a temporary use permit is $1,700. The application review process would include a report to council’s committee of the whole and public hearing, if moved forward.

Banks told Black Press Media council’s decision left her feeling blind-sided.

She already told the municipality she won’t apply for such a permit, she said, as the months-long process could leave her in the same situation a year later.

“I can’t go through this process and this stress every year and hope that they let me do this,” she said. “For me, it’s all or nothing. I either stay for good or I need to find another place that will allow me to be there permanently.”

RELATED: Dog grooming business in Sidney gets a life leash, but reopening months away

That place won’t be in Sidney because of its high commercial rents, she said. She instead plans to close her business for the foreseeable future until she finds an appropriate location elsewhere.

“I don’t think they are hearing that I have nowhere else to go,” she said, questioning Sidney’s support for business. “There is no affordable space for a business like mine in Sidney.” She also questioned the argument that an operation the size of hers amounts to a threat to Sidney’s industrial land base.

Pooch Parlor closed in early March after municipal officials ticketed the business for operating illegally on land zoned M1. Sidney staff became aware of Banks’ non-compliance after she had applied to renew her business license in January, with her new address. Staff told her they could not do so because the proposed use – personal services – did not comply with the location’s M1 industrial zoning, and proceeded to shut her business down.

Banks, for her part, acknowledged she made a mistake sub-leasing the industrial-zoned space before moving her shop from downtown Sidney. This acknowledgement of what she and others have called an honest mistake, coupled with her almost eight-year business tenure in Sidney and an outpouring of public support, likely swayed some councillors before the March 21 committee decision.

RELATED: Sidney draft OCP set for public input

But a week can be an eternity in politics and council heard on March 28 from several speakers opposed to the proposed amendments, saying they threaten Sidney’s limited industrial land supply. The timing of the proposal was also questioned.

“On a higher level, I’m really concerned that you are looking at an OCP amendment in the midst of an OCP draft,” said Steve Duck. “We need that industrial land because we continue to incubate small businesses that permeate the Saanich Peninsula.”

Duck echoed earlier comments from John Treleaven supporting a temporary use permit, arguments that ultimately fell on open ears.

Garnett welcomed the additional public input from voices other than supporters of the business.

“That has happened in the past week, even before the public hearing would occur,” he said. Hearing from economic advisory committee member David Calveley (who had spoken during public participation) and chamber of commerce executive director Al Smith gave him a more fulsome perspective on the whole criteria, he added.

“This is a good business owner, operating a good, successful business in our community, who made an honest mistake,” Garnett said, adding that Pooch Parlour’s continued operation in February bothered him somewhat.

“I feel bad for the person, but that can’t come into my decision making,” he said.

Looking at the process, Sidney’s chief administrative officer Randy Humble said earlier this week that the municipality requires all development applications to appear before committee of the whole first. “These meetings are less structured and offer (council) members greater time to consider applications in-depth. The (committee) does not make decisions; it makes recommendations to (council),” he said.

Following a recommendation from the committee, members of the public may continue to share their views with council, he added. “In some cases, new perspectives are expressed,” he said. “Council members also continue to give the issue further thought. During a regular council meeting, council members make decisions and those decisions may or may not align with committee of the whole recommendations.”

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