March 5 PLUC Summary & Observations

Video for the 29 minute meeting is here.

It was a quick affair.

1486 Dallas Road Development Variance Permit

Here is the PPT that was shown by staff during a very short presentation on the issue. All I could think while watching the images in the ppt whiz by, was that it would have been good to include some of those visuals in the report because then the report could have been viewed as a standalone document and less work would be required in trying to understand what was going on.

To summarize, what happened was that someone enclosed their deck and turned it into a 3rd bedroom and additional bathroom without permits. What I don’t really understand is why a variance for # of storeys was required – given the enclosure of the deck, I do understand the variance for floor space.

Councillor Isitt was concerned with how the process being set forth for dealing with this issue, is the same process for dealing with applications that have not yet happened – I wondered the same thing yesterday in my Early Thoughts.

Staff explained how the City’s Clean Hands Policy for Development Approvals exists as the mechanism for requiring that illegal construction be taken down if required by Council, but because the owners of 1486 Dallas are being cooperative in going through the typical development process – even though they did this construction 2.5 years ago – there is no penalty to them per se.

Isitt would have preferred to see a financial penalty imposed.

The proposed variances that are required of the illegal construction were unanimously approved by PLUC and so the case now moves forward to Council on March 12th, where it will be no doubt approved and accepted by (as a PLUC report), and then two weeks later it will come back to Council on Council  March 26th for notice of public hearing, and then two weeks later I believe the public hearing actually occurs on April 16th. Or something like that.

All in all, a lot of work for minor construction that was completed 2.5 years ago on a duplex beside a low rise building on a busy road for which no complaints seem to have been received.

Fun Fact Time

In an effort to better understand the variance requirement put forth by staff, I decided to investigate how the property was zoned and in doing so I encountered one of the most perfect manifestations of how screwy the City of Victoria zoning bylaw -with its 617 spot zones – really is.

So if you look to VicMap which is the City’s primary public mapping tool, you can see that the property (1484/1486 Duplex on Dallas Rd) is zoned R-J Low Density Attached Dwelling District. 

1486 Dallas

However, if you look back at the staff report where they list out relevant zoning sections in the Recommendation section, you will quickly see that the numbering used in the report does not reflect the numbering used in the R-J zone. This is because, the zone that is being referenced by staff is actually the R-2 Zone Two Family Dwelling District.

How is this you ask?

It is a result of the permitted uses identified in the R-J zone.

RJ Permitted Use

Namely section 1(c) – Fun eh!

Regarding the requested variance for maximum number of floors for 1486 Dallas Rd, there is no such requirement in the R-J zone attached to the property, but as noted in the staff report, there is such a requirement in the R-2 zone and so this requirement for a variance is likely just an effort for the City to update its own civic files for the property. That said, I wonder why a similar variance isn’t required for the other half of the duplex at 1484 Dallas rd, given that it’s all one building?

In closing I will note that staff incorrectly referenced the appropriate floor space requirement and variance request in their staff report. Section 2.13.d does not exist in the R-2 Zone but section 2.1.3.d does – check it out!

Dallas Rec

Wonder if this will be caught in the motion that goes into the minutes?

470 Belleville Street Heritage Alteration Permit

As predicted, Mayor Helps attempted to place this report on the consent agenda, meaning that the recommendation proposed by staff would have been passed without discussion:

“That Council authorize the issuance of Heritage Alteration Permit Application No. 00190 for the property at 470 Belleville Street, in accordance with:

  1. Plans date stamped February 3, 2015
  2. Development meeting all Zoning Regulation Bylaw requirements
  3. Final plans to be generally in accordance with the plans identified above to the satisfaction of the Assistant Director, Community Planning Division.”

However this effort was foiled by Councillor Isitt who declared “conflict of interest” and recused himself from the decision since he is the Council delegate to the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) and the GVHA leases the building. The issue was quickly passed after the staff report and presentation received praise for its “thoroughness” from Councillor Madoff.

Policy Report

Official Community Plan Amendment

Subdivisions Exemptions and Administrative Amendments

As mentioned yesterday the purpose of this report is to provide housekeeping amendments to the Official Community Plan (OCP) to clarify the conditions under which a Development Permit Application is required for subdivisions in Development Permit Areas and Heritage Conservation Areas, and to enact minor amendments correcting clerical and mapping errors in the OCP.

One thing that I failed to mention in my lengthy discussion of this issue yesterday, that as part of their report to Council, staff was proposing to do something very practical to the OCP and make amendments to the Urban Place Designation Map as OCP amendments occur – instead of just tracking these in a separate appendix as was originally proposed.

Urban Place OCP

Makes sense.

That said, I still think they should keep the appendix (Appendix C) because it will provide a valuable and easily accessible record of what changes have occurred. Getting rid of it would be silly.

Here is the very brief PPT that was shown by staff.

My favourite part of the meeting this morning was when Councillor Madoff echoed my exact concerns with the staff report by saying:

TL:DW 

Veteran Councillor Pam Madoff who has been on Council for early 22 years and is one of the more active PLUC voices said today:

“I’ve certainly read this over a number of times. I think of myself as reasonably conversant with land use. But if a member of the public asked me, what is the actual implication of this action, I could not tell them. 

So if we go out to the public with this, I don’t know that they’re going to be particularly well informed. Because it doesn’t say, for example, giving an example of what would have required a process before that no longer will require a process…. this doesn’t tell me anything.”

And much to Madoff’s credit, it was this line of questioning that led to some actual clarity from Andrea Hudson, Assistant Director Community Planning on what was being asked.

It was revealed to PLUC that because no guidelines exist on desirable subdivision characteristics – other than in DPA 13: Core Songhees or DPA 15B: Intensive Residential – Panhandle lot through the small lot rezoning process as outlined in the report – to help staff provide guidance to PLUC and Council for assessment of any any subdivisions that come in, that it is more efficient to not require a Development Permit at the subdivision application stage.

In response to further questioning from Councillor Madoff, Ms. Hudson did state to PLUC that Development Permits will still be required at the actual design stage of any applications received – but only for exterior design finishes and landscaping.

As illustrated in Madoff’s questions, examples would have helped.

Regardless, in other related discussed the ever political Councillor Alto was quick to  request that the initially recommended 2 week consultation period on the proposed changes to the OCP be extended to 4 weeks (March 6 – April 10) to enhance public opportunities for comment.

Councillor Thornton-Joe also asked an interesting if not somewhat ignorant question given that she’s been on Council for 13 years, about why public notice is given in the Times Colonist and not some other paper – such as Vic News which is free. Director of Legislative Services Rob Woodland stated simply in response to her question that notice is given in newspapers to meet statutory requirements – that is, the public hearing notification requirements of section 892 of the Local Government Act.

A motion was later passed by PLUC asking for a staff report on options for public notification of land use development applications.

Councillor Isitt asked if this recommended relaxation conferred any entitlements upon property owners but was told by Ms. Hudson that no, it wouldn’t because applicants would still have to comply with with zoning – as well as the unique requirements of the subdivision process I presume.

Lastly, there was no mention this morning about exemptions for subdivision applications on lands located in Heritage Conservation Areas (HCAs) despite the inclusion of HCAs in the staff report.

One Good News Story

Director of Civic Engagement and Strategic Planning Katie Hamilton informed PLUC that her staff will be working with land use and development staff  “to revamp  the website to make it easier to navigate so that these type of information [consultation opportunities] will be in the forefront.”

Huzzah!

 

 

 

 

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