I stayed home last night and watched the first part of the Council meeting from home (Early Thoughts here). Once the public hearings were complete I then turned things off because 7.5 hours of Council meetings in one day is enough for anyone, even just someone observing. Video of the meeting can be found here.
So what happened last night?
2208 Lydia Street – Rezoning & DP with Variances
This hearing to rezone land known as 2208 Lydia Street from the R1-B, Single Family Dwelling District, to the R1-B-GS2 Zone, Single Family Dwelling with Garden Suite District, to permit the construction of a garden suite went through without any speakers.
The rezoning and the DP were then approved without much discussion by Council.
1330 Ivy Place – Rezoning & DP with Variances
This hearing to rezone land known as 1330 Ivy Place from the R1-B Zone, Single Family Dwelling District, to the R1-S2 Zone, Restricted Small Lot (TwoStorey) District, to permit subdivision and construction of a new small lot single family dwelling had a number of speakers and required significant debate by Council.
Video of PLUC’s consideration of this proposal on January 29th should be available here. If you happen to watch it you will notice that just as last night, Councillor Isitt spoke the most as he attempted to work through a series of concerns – the most major of which seemed to be, how do you balance economic benefits to the applicant with loss of ecological benefits from the land.
This issue of loss of green space on the applicants own land was also emphasized by the applicants neighbour who even mentioned how apparently the land up for development used to be a famous garden.
Which however, is not in any way relevant to the small lot rezoning process, especially since the once famous garden is duly owned by the applicant.
What is relevant to rezoning process mind you, is a fair opportunity for the respective community land use association to review the proposal and provide comment to the VicStaff and the PLUC for consideration when they initially review applications.
Despite the CALUC process for this development having occurred on May 2014 and the staff report being written January 2015, the Acting Director of Planning and Land Use Development claimed last night “that it is common for no submission to be received and or for submission to be received late”. Which seems like a problem to me, and that good process should dictate that development proposals only be given to Council for consideration if and when the application is complete.
The neighbourhood and community correspondence attached to the agenda for the public hearing last night certainly demonstrated a lack of support by immediate neighbours for the proposal. An additional piece of LATE LATE correspondence was also added to the agenda at last minute for neighbours especially concerned with the proposal at 1330 Ivy Place.
And if you check the video of the second part of the PLUC discussion of 1330 Ivy Place back in January 2015 you’ll find that Council was seemingly oblivious to the design and administrative specifics of the proposal (e.g., rationale for replacement of trees and variance requirement inherent in the proposal). And you will also note that no substantive discussion occurred by Council when this proposal for 1330 Ivy came forward again at the February 26th Council agenda where the necessary bylaw rezoning received 1st and 2nd reading (which is to say, the proposal was set in motion).
Which is to say that, sending a proposal forward to public hearing when you are neither apprised of community concerns and or development specifics, is wasteful of time and money for both Council and the applicant. And this waste was illustrated last night when the proposal to complete a small lot rezoning at 1330 Ivy Place was denied third reading and adoption by Council.
I then also found it interesting how abruptly consideration of the proposal ended – once the tied vote on the motion occurred – and “motion dies” was stated by Mayor Helps the issue was abandoned. Council promptly moved on to the next agenda item and the applicant was left to wonder what just happened, and likely muse further on her observation from earlier in the hearing of “why is it that my neighbour can do one thing (e.g., successfully complete a small lot rezoning) and I can’t?”
Staff had recommended that she be able to. Probably based on neighbourhood precedent and also because the proposal was consistent with the Official Community Plan, the Oaklands neighbourhood plan, and the small lot rezoning policy.
And yet Council rejected it.
So what happens when a proposal gets rejected at Public Hearing?
To find out more about this, we have to check out the City’s Land Use Development procedures Bylaw which as the name suggests, sets out the procedures to be followed for land use and development at the City.
On the issue of wasting time and money, Part 2.7 Application fees & refunds section 3(a) of the bylaw indicates that the applicant can be refunded the public hearing fee if and when a proposal is rejected by committee (but not after public hearing since these funds would have already been spent). Additionally, Part 3 – DECISIONS, REAPPLICATIONS AND MINOR AMENDMENTS section 3.2 Reapplications (1) specifies that reapplications are only permitted one year after date of refusal.
Which is to say that the applicant for 1330 Ivy Place can try again in a year if she wants. Given Council discussion last night about how a “garden suite but not a house could be considerable acceptable” mind you, it would seem the applicant has grounds for a feasible complaint against the city for poor process because, the issue with rezoning is a question for Council of whether proposed density (allowed by rezoning) is appropriate or not.
And Council did not have all the information they needed back (e.g., feedback from neighbours) when the proposal was considered by PLUC in January of this year. So at the time, they felt the density was appropriate. Fast forward to yesterday, where all this necessary information is suddenly available and Council are no longer firm in their believe that the density change (e.g., addition of a new house) is appropriate.
But instead of focusing just on this issue of density, those who voted against the proposal seemed to be swayed by external considerations include ability of the lot and roadway to accommodate traffic* (not only construction) as well as the potential loss of green space on the owners yard – which was contrary to the PLUC discussion where conversation focused instead on the “fabulous green space” which is the remainder of Ivy Place.
*I am not considering traffic an issue of density because the proposal itself would have no impact on Ivy place in that the current access from the existing house would cut off – leaving only the zero sum addition of the 1 new house on the road. Also, no variances were being required for parking so staff felt the space adequate for traffic.
Council was also swayed last night by concerned neighbours, which they should have been. But they also should have been astute enough to question the results of the public petition submitted in the application back in January since its support was based primarily on folks unaffected by the development. They also should have asked back in January, where are the immediate neighbours on this?
But they didn’t. And so the whole thing was a mess. Excellence in Planning and Land Use was certainly not demonstrated last night.
301 & 303 St. Lawrence St – Rezoning & DP
This was a hearing to amend the Zoning Regulation Bylaw:
(a)to create a RK-27 Zone, St. Lawrence Street Townhouse District, to permit attached dwellings in addition to single family dwellings and two family dwellings, with specific regulations for lot area, lot width, floor space ratio, floor area, building height, setbacks, site coverage, open site space and vehicle and bicycle parking;
(b)to rezone the lands known as 301-303 St. Lawrence Street from R-2 Zone, Two Family Dwelling District, to the new RK-27 Zone, St. Lawrence Street Townhouse District, to permit four townhouse units.
All I can say about this proposal, is that given the simplicity and ease with which the applicant has seemingly dealt with their project, it should have been easy for staff to prepare a clear narrative related to this project. But they didn’t, and Council was quick to approve the necessary rezoning bylaw last night after only a minor neighbour concern was received.