LETTER: Questioning City Staff's Advice

Laurie Charlton
By Laurie Charlton
September 28th, 2009

Dear editor,

Recent Rossland City Council decisions make me question whether we are receiving appropriate advice from staff. Based on these decisions, Council appears to be establishing a double standard. Council accepted questionable recommendations from staff to be lenient with bylaw violators and potential developers on one hand but to impose unnecessary conditions for individuals on the other.

Council is prepared to amend the OCP and Zoning Bylaws to accommodate the owners of a cabin built illegally on a large piece of property at Red Mountain. Over 200 condos could be developed on the property. The cabin was built in contravention of the Zoning Bylaw and without building or development permits. Staff suggested the owners be fined $10,000 although fines can only be imposed by a judge after summary conviction. Council refused to press charges.

The owners claim they didn’t get good advice and weren’t informed about the need for permits, even though local residents who knew, or should have known, were apparently involved in the construction. It is hard to imagine how anyone in this day and age does not understand the need to obtain appropriate permits – especially if they are big city dwellers with property in the “boonies”.

The effect of the proposed changes to the OCP and Zoning Bylaws means that similar unserviced cabins can be built on every property in the RFA-2 zone. That’s certainly not going to achieve the high quality of architectural design and comprehensive planning required by the OCP.

Some have cited the presence of other cabins in the area as justification for allowing this particular cabin to remain. Existing cabins on Granite were legally constructed decades ago, long before the City boundaries were expanded to include them and before zoning bylaws existed in this area. They provide no justification for allowing this illegal cabin to remain.

In contrast, Council is forcing individuals, seeking to establish a business or repair a garage, to undergo unnecessary rezonings before they can proceed with lawful activities.

The sale of the Jehovah’s Witness building was stymied when staff recommended that a comprehensive development (CD) zone be created for the property even though the existing P-1 zoning allows for private schools. No zoning change was required.

Staff also recommended that an easement for a trail through the property be required as a condition of the rezoning. There is no provision in the Local Government Act (LGA) that allows the City to make such a demand. It amounts to nothing more than extortion on the part of Council.

In another case, a homeowner wanted to rebuild a carport which collapsed during the winter. Staff recommended that the property be rezoned to a CD zone prior to the issuance of a building permit because the buildings exceed the maximum lot coverage permitted under the current zoning bylaw.

The house and carport were legally built in 1995, prior to the adoption of the current zoning bylaw. The previous bylaw imposed no maximum lot coverage. In fact, the previous bylaw included a minimum building width requirement. With the adoption of the current zoning bylaw, the existing building became legally non-conforming.

The Local Government Act allows repairs to a legally non-conforming building as long as there is no increase in the non-conformance. There was no need for a rezoning. A building permit for the repairs should have been issued months ago.

Staff also recommended that the homeowner be required to plant large trees on the boulevard as a condition for the rezoning. Once again this amounts to extortion since the LGA does not give the City the power to make this demand.

In both the above cases, the use of CD zones was completely inappropriate. CD zones are meant to be used for large pieces of property on which multiple uses are planned.

In my opinion, senior planning staff have too much time on their hands if they can generate these bizarre and unnecessary recommendations. In view of the high taxes in Rossland, Council needs to mitigate increasing costs by reducing the bureaucratic overload in City Hall.

Laurie Charlton

Categories: Letters

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