March 19 PLUC – Early Thoughts

It is a decently sized agenda for PLUC on Thursday, with a number of items that should warrant significant conversation. That said, I’m disinclined to think that much discussion will occur because staff involvement and guidance seem to have hit a new low this week – as evidenced in the abysmal level of supporting information available for big items.

You can at least be assured that I spent a significant amount of time looking into all items and coming up with my own thought, observations and questions on each item. Here are my thoughts.

Liquor Store for 1609 Fort Street

This is a proposal to rezone the property to authorize a 241m² Liquor Retail Store in the South Jubilee neighbourhood. A Public Hearing is required prior to Council making a final decision on the application in accordance with the Licensee Retail Stores Rezoning Policy.

You may remember that changes to this policy were recently approved at last week’s GPC meeting where Council agreed to do away with the 200m2 floor space max for new liquor stores. Big Liquor stores for all!

Attached with the staff report for this proposal are the results of a neighbourhood poll with 39/40 neighbourhoods in support of the proposal and no objections from the South Jubilee Development Committee. To make for easy reading of the proposal, I have pulled out the Rationale for Liquor Store Rezoning from the applicant from the larger attachment.

So what is being proposed?

1609 Fort Street

A large liquor store next to a payday lender is being proposed. But it is apparently a upscale liquor proposal that will not cater to the single serving needs of the traditional homeless. Nothing is said mind you of any precautions that will be put into place to ensure that liquor being bought at this store isn’t being financed by payday loans.

I say this because I wrote my masters projects on payday lenders in BC and I know from experience that they are pernicious bunch with dodgy business practices that allow for unsuspecting folks to get easily hooked. Adding convenient access to a liquor store into the equation is never a good mix because there is a reason for why the Lender in question at this location (Money Mart) on Fort Street continues to stay in business.

For reference, here is a map of nearby liquor store locations:

Liquor StoresTwo odd things about this proposal for me are:

  1. It requires a parking variance (for less parking) because staff recommend turning one spot into landscaping. This is despite a number of concerns for parking having been raised in the statements of support for this development and reluctance from the applicant.
  2. This proposal was supposed to be on the March 5 PLUC agenda but was withdrawn because additional info was needed from the applicant. But if you look through the all attachments, you see that the staff report was written in February, the applicant request in January and all other applicant attachments seem to have been completed in fall 2014. So I guess they were just waiting to hear what would be said, as mentioned above, at the GPC consideration of Liquor policy changes.

Here is the staff report that comes with the associated Development Permit application with variances to authorize the design, siting and landscaping for a 241m² Liquor Retail Store within an existing building as well as accommodate the reduction in off-street parking. Of note is that the agenda faceplate identifies this variance as being for “on-street parking” not off-street as required.

1609 Parking Variance

DP with Variances 549 Toronto Street

This is a development application to authorize a three-storeybuilding that includes five residential units in the James Bay neighbourhood. The variances relate to site coverage, site area, landscaping, and front and side yard setbacks. A hearing is required prior to Council making a final decision on the application.

549 Toronto

The property was previously occupied by a single family dwelling (as seen above) which has since been demolished and the site is zoned R3-2 Zone, Multiple Dwelling District. Even still, a number of variances are required to accommodate this proposal. Of note is that the staff report details how the previously granted DVP (Oct 25, 2012) expired on July 26, 2014. Apparently the current application is “for exactly the same building design and variances approved in 2012.”

Given the buildings surrounding 549 Toronto Street and the seeming fit of the plan for the neighbourhood, I wonder what’s been holding it all up? Perhaps we’ll find out more tomorrow?

DP with Variances 120 Gorge Road East

This is a development application to authorize the design, siting and landscaping for the second phase of a supportive housing development (Seim Velum) with the construction of a three-storey building consisting of 15 apartment units and a separate one-storey building in the Burnside-Gorge Neighbourhood. Variances are requested for increased site coverage, increased number of buildings and reduced parking because only 12 spots will be provided when apparently 53 are required.

A hearing is required prior to Council making a final decision on the property on whether or not to approve the DP with variances. The zone in question for which the variances are being requested, is the R-40 Gorge Rd Apartment District zone which is essentially just the R3-2 Multiple Dwelling District Zone but with an enhanced setback requirement from Gorge Road.

Heritage Alteration Permit 151 Oswego

This is a report regarding a heritage alteration permit to authorize renovations to a heritage-designated house. In particular, the proposal is a retroactive application to address the recent removal of the east addition, which was to be retained and rehabilitated in accordance with the HRA.

This proposal is for the reconstruction of the addition using new materials. In addition, door, window and exterior finishing details that were not included in the drawings prepared by Zebra Design have been provided in the current drawings prepared by Keay Cecco Architecture.

151 Oswego

There is quite the history to this application. Most recently, the proponent applied for small lot rezoning and was granted it in 2014 subject to the completion of  a Heritage Agreement for the heritage home  – a commitment to maintaining the heritage home being the incentive for approving the small lot rezoning I assume. Looking at the minutes of the May 2014 Public Hearing you can see evidence of both public and Council having concerns about how the applicant has allowed this heritage property to “run down” since he purchased the property in 2009.

With that in mind, its not really surprising that he has since acted contrary to the Heritage Revitalization agreement. Of note is that heritage conservation is very serious business and that things such as Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of FHistoric Places in Canada exist. I imagine both Councillor’s Madoff and Isitt will have some things to say tomorrow.

Ogden Point Master Plan – Proposed Time Extension

This is a very short staff report attached to a request from the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) for a two year extension on the deadline that has already been extended by four years. Long story short, it looks like the city signed an Memorandum of Understanding (political legal document) in 2006 whereby the City gave the GVHA free use of Ogden Point so long as they completed a Master Planning exercise by December 2010 (e.g., within 4 years).

But they didn’t because at least 10 years is what they require. If you look at their website though, they do have a fair number of documents and other information available on a Master Plan page. But what exactly precipitated this, especially since the GVHA has been operating the Harbour since it was it was divested by Transport Canada in 2002?

To find this out I looked at old meeting minutes for the City of Victoria, within the Committee of the Whole 2004-2009 section of CivicWeb using the advanced Search Function. And in doing so, I found the following motion (see page 14-15):GVHA Good Neighbour

This is what would have turned into the MOU. And one particular thing to note about the 2005 minutes is that there were 150 cruise ships that year – this year in 2015, a record 230 ships are anticipated and it should be noted that these ship get bigger and bigger every year apparently. So with more ships there is presumably more of a need fora this “good neighbour agreement”/Master Plan. But it hasn’t happened yet.

One thing I do know is that the James Bay Neighbourhood Association has been studying this issue extensively and has a number of very scientific reports available on their site regarding their neighbour – the cruise ship industry.

All and all, the thing that bugs me the most about this GVHA request (other than the lack of historical documentation provided by staff on this file for the benefit of new councillors especially) is that this issue was not brought up at their recent appearance at GPC on February 26 as part of their 2015 Annual Presentation. It’s also pretty lame that the alternate staff recommendation is to randomly rezone the property to zoning requirements (M-S-1 Marine Service Outer Harbour District) that were written on a typewriter.

I doubt much conversation will occur on this tomorrow – but maybe it will since Councillor Isitt is the GVHA delegate and he actually seems to care and pay attention to what goes on at the Council table.

Reconsideration 845 Yates Street

This item is a piece of new business from Mayor Helps and Councillor Alto regarding a Development Permit Application that was rejected in 2014 by Victoria Council for the Wave Building on Yates Street – see below:

The Wave

So what is the background on this issue?

There isn’t any provided on the agenda tomorrow because it appears as though Mayor Helps is acting on this file in isolation of staff. Which legally speaking, seems like a really silly thing to do. That said, the decision to allow this item on the agenda without any accompanying staff report or legislative guidance shouldn’t have been permitted by staff. This isn’t just a casual Council motion.

Development Permits (City’s application package here) are a particular development item with specific rules and regulations attached to it. Given that the original piece of correspondence (from the Wave Strata President) was received in December 2014, and tomorrow is March 18th that would have given staff plenty of time to prepare appropriate recommendations.

Anyhoo. Issue in short is that when the building went up in 2010 or so it came with a unique art feature (an interesting discussion thread is available from Vibrant Victoria) and unfortunately, the feature was not installed properly and the tiles that make up the Wave have been falling off (safety hazard) which led to the Wave strata approaching the City for a Development Permit to remove the tiles and recreate the original mural using paint.

The City turned them down. Bill Clevery did a good article on it.

So what about the actual legislation behind what is going on?

As listed within the City’s Official Community Plan, the Wave at 845 Yates falls within what is called DPA 2 (HC) Core Business – a heritage conservation area of sorts that also seeks to:

c)  To enhance the area through a high quality of architecture, landscape and urban design that reflects the function of a central business district in scale, massing and character while responding to its historic context.

The Wave has always struck me as a quality development. What I do not understand, as I look into this file is the relevance of a recreated famous Japanese painting and how it could be considered reflective of the historic City of Victoria business core?

So I started doing some digging around to find the reasons given for rejection of the DP. If you go back through Planning and Land Use Committee meeting minutes for 2014, you find that the Wave DP came to the table twice, on April 17 (staff report) and on June 5th (staff report).

Of note is that staff recommended on both occasions that the DP be issued so that the tile mural can be removed and a much larger painted mural be placed on the side of the building instead. Mind you, staff also recommended that the scope of the painted mural be reduced but this didn’t make Council happy. They wanted the original mural back and as noted in correspondence that is provided on the agenda for tomorrows discussion, such a request is anticipated to cost the strata a lot of money.

So why is this even an issue? My guess is that the DP was rejected in 2014 because the art piece would have been considered a “public amenity” and this public amenity would have provided for certain allowances (e.g., exemption to max height restrictions) to the builder under R-48 Harris Green District Zone. And because these allowances were given, Council wants their art!

And this is evidenced in the minutes of the June 5 PLUC meeting where the “significance” of the building was raised as justification for requiring the replacement of the original tiled mural (see pages 4-5). Two members of the Wave Strata then attended the June 12 Council meeting and attempted to petition Council (see pgs 5-6) and get them to reconsider their motion that the passed on June 5 following incamera legal advice:

Action: It was moved by Councillor Madoff, seconded by Councillor Gudgeon, that Committee recommends that Council decline approval of the Development Permit and request that the tile be reinstalled in a way that will be long lasting and durable.

CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY 14/PLUC0129

—Update—-

It turns out however, at least according to Councillor Madoff when she spoke on the issue at the March 19 meeting that this art was not actually an amenity.

—-End Update—

But it still seems dodgy to me so I turned to the Local Government Act – the piece of legislation that provides rules and guidance for among other things, land use and planning in BC. And if we look to section 920(9) of the LGA in particular, we see that Council likely acted contrary to legislation when they chose to reject the 2014 DP application – section 919(1)(f) being the enabling legal mechanism for DPA2 (HC): Core Business the DPA that required the Wave’s DP.

(9) If land has been designated under section 919.1 (1) (f), a development permit may include requirements respecting the character of the development, as referred to in subsection (8) of this section, but only in relation to the general character of the development and not to particulars of the landscaping or of the exterior design and finish of buildings and other structures.

A mural is a particular element – which is to say it does not seem like fair grounds for refusal of a DP. If anything, a DP for fixing a critical safety and legal liability issue on an existing building shouldn’t have even been a matter for Council consideration, especially since the City of Victoria  has an application package for what they call:

Minor Amendments to Development Permits & Heritage Alteration Permits
or
Changes to an Existing Building within a Development Permit Area or Heritage Conservation Area

And if you look at the first page of this package you see:

A Development Permit (DP) or Heritage Alteration Permit (HAP) will not be required under conditions where the development application is confirmed to consist only of repairs, minor alterations and restoration – including but not limited to those related to tenancy – that do not materially alter the design or character of the building….

Two things here. This minor amendment would have allowed for the process to go forward based only on staff approval, and again, replacing a dangerous tile mural with a safe painted mural seems like a decent thing to me. And had the Wave strata gone through such a process instead, they would have been able to make their repairs last year and been done with it all.

Such a waste.

One thing to note is that Mayor Helps has been consistently in support of allowing the Wave Strata to take down the tile mural (see page 10 of June 12, 2014 Council minutes).

Her recommendation for tomorrow is that:

WHEREAS the strata corporation at The Wave submitted a development permit application that was rejected by Council;

AND WHEREAS the solution that was imposed by Council through Development Permit is proving both technically difficult and cost prohibitive for the strata given that a portion of their residents are seniors living on fixed incomes;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Council allow the strata corporation for the Wave to resubmit a similar Development Permit to the original in less than the one year required as set out in the Land Use Procedures Bylaw, Section 3.2.2 (see page 11):

3.2 Reapplications

  1. If the Council refuses an amendment, including rezoning, or a permit or agreement, a person is not permitted to reapply for the same amendment, rezoning, permit, or agreement until one year has elapsed from the date on which the refusal was made.
  2. Despite subsection (1), by an affirmative vote of at least 2/3 of its members that are eligible to vote on the reapplication, the Council may permit a person to reapply within the one year period set out in subsection (1).

We will see what happens!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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