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Elected officials present at the December 10 2018 Regular Council meeting: Mayor Maja Tait, and Councillors Jeff Bateman, Al Beddows, Ebony Logins, Megan McMath, Brenda Parkinson and Tony St-Pierre.
Advancing a controversial matter, Sooke council approved the zoning amendment bylaw that would align a narrowly passed OCP amendment with District bylaws (see below for a more detailed background), in a 5-to-2. It goes to a public hearing on January 14, 2019 for final approval.
Should it pass final reading after the public hearing, this would allow for the newly categorized “historic non-conforming” businesses (operating illegally since 2010 or earlier) to apply for a Temporary Use Permit; this permit would allow these businesses to legally operate on a temporary basis (for up to two years with an option of one renewal) while the business owner(s) work with the District to become legally operating businesses. Not all 900 in the residential gateway zone can apply for this, it can only be applied for by non-conforming use businesses who have been operating since 2010.
While this bylaw amendment is truly a house-keeping matter (bringing an Official Community Plan—aka OCP—amendment in alignment with District bylaws), its implications are far-reaching.
Had this council rejected this housekeeping item, the changes made by the previous council would have to be “unwound.” This would mean renouncing their previously passed OCP amendment, which was democratically approved after a public hearing was held.
In passing this item, decisions arrived at via a democratic process (by a majority vote of members of council) would be upheld.
This item first appeared on Council’s first regular post-election meeting in November. Given the impact that this house-keeping item would have, Council opted to defer the decision until the next meeting. They asked for a Staff Report on the Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 726 (600-67), 2018, which was included in the December 10th meeting package.
Ultimately, Council passed the house-keeping item, with Councillors Parkinson and St-Pierre opposed. Parkinson, who has historically opposed this change, maintained that this was a sweeping bylaw and OCP shift made to accommodate one long-standing illegally-operating business owner.
- Councillor Parkinson noted the Gateway resident was for growth and small industry, emphasis on small. The business in question is not a small industry. This is a major decision tonight that affects half of Sooke. She also asked how many businesses would be applying for this special permit, and it was noted that while there are a number of non-conforming businesses observed in the area, the count is only anecdotal. She will not support this.
- Councillor Logins said she struggles with this. It was a years-long struggle with previous council. She observed that the community at that time supported this. She added that individual applications still have to be made, which will each have a public hearing: people will still be able to speak at public hearings for each application. The final meeting of the last council was an impossible situation. It was a close motion and even though she voted against it then, she felt democracy needed to prevail. We need to work with work done in the past, she said, and allow applications to come forward and process them individually.
- Councillor St-Pierre said he also struggles with this, because we need jobs in Sooke and a more diversified economy. However, he also added, this is a new council that was issued with a mandate from the electorate. Decisions with broad impacts can’t be made to accommodate one business. Council needs to represent Sooke collectively, he said, adding that council has to abide by the OCP and listen to the will of the community. He said that what they do today impacts the future in Sooke. Creating strange loopholes is not progressive, or productive. Lastly, he argued, this change will waste more staff time and resources.
- Mayor Tait noted that the text amendment is a path to compliance. To be a complete economy, said Tait, we need industry. Tait is not in favour of shutting down a business that provides employment and stimulates the economy.
- Councillor McMath asked about the bylaw order to remove a recreational trailer on the site. Mills said there’s not an order to remove but to cease residential use of the recreational vehicle.
- Councillor St-Pierre feels its unfortunate there is no industrial park for the one business owner in question to move into. That said, the business owner has known for a long time this needed to be addressed.
- Councillor Beddows said he also struggles with this. He noted that a lot of legal information was sent to the Councillors just before the December 10th meeting. That said, he supported Logins’ presenation that the previous council was the law of the land at the time, and Beddows is loathed to go back in time. But looking forward, he said, a zoning application could also fail because of the impact on neighbours and the environment. The neighbours have to be onside, and he doesn’t see this happening.
- Councillor Logins views the passing of this house-keeping item as moving towards a solution. If this moves forward, the District can issue a temporary use permit with a stipulation that he has two years to find a new property. This would give Council two years to find land and zone it for this. Undoing what was done just leaves the water more muddied.
- Councillor Bateman also noted his struggle with this. He quoted Tait’s inaugural address where she said that policies and bylaws need to be revisited, revised, and in some cases thrown out. He, like Beddows, felt that receiving a significant amount of new information just before the meeting was also overwhelming.
- Councillor St-Pierre found Logins commentary useful but noted they are creating new rules because they can’t get compliance.
- Mayor Tait noted this new process will allow for cease and desist.
- Councillor St-Pierre noted a cease-and-desist can currently be issued and hasn’t been. [SPN note, historically cease-and-desists have been issued but weren’t adhered to.]
- Councillor Beddows asked about the timeline attached to the Temporary Use Permit. It was noted that the period could be set at Council’s discretion, but the maximum would be set at two years; it could not be extended beyond that, although businesses could re-apply once for an extension. Ultimately, the time period would be up to council. They can say six months, three days, whatever they want.
- Councillor McMath addressed the fear that this will here forever. This council is interested in what is best for community. This is the best path for a reconciliation that supports both the public and the business owner.
The question was called, and with Parkinson and St-Pierre opposed, the (below) motion carried.
That Council give first and second reading to Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 726 (600-67), 2018 for the purposes of amending Part 3 General Regulations;
While Council could have waived a public hearing on the matter, Councillor Parkinson moved recommendation for a Public hearing, which was carried unanimously.
AND THAT a Public Hearing be scheduled for Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 726 (600-67), 2018 in accordance with Section 466 of the Local Government Act. January 14th.
- Staff Report on the Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 726 (600-67), 2018 (note, the public is not privy to in-camera documentation)
- J Smith Correspondence
- The one business referenced by Parkinson is a property along Sooke Road was purchased after the District of Sooke incorporated in 1999. Since it was purchased after incorporation, “grandfathering” of land usage is not applicable.
- The property has long been used to run a welding business. According to information from an October meeting, the estimate length of time that this business was in operation is over 16 years.
- In 2008, the business owner was refused a business licence on the grounds that his type of work was not permissible for the zoned land use.
- On Feb 12, 2004, a municipal planner sent a letter to the land owner, saying the welding operations were not not permitted, and that the business owner was to cease and desist.
- In 2017, staff under the direction of the former CAO issued a mobile business licence to the business owner (commonly assigned to mobile contractors), and then a few weeks later requested council to rescind it.
- A recent re-zoning request failed as it was outside of the parameters set by the OCP.
- In their final Council meeting, the last council narrowly passed an OCP amendment that would allow for a new category of “Historic non-conforming” business (operating illegally since 2010 or earlier) to apply for a Temporary Use Permit allowing them to legally operate on a temporary basis (up to 2 years with an option of one renewal).
Also covered at the December 10 Regular Council meeting:
- Sooke launches participation with an Island-wide business licencing option
- Controversial “house-keeping” bylaw passes Council scrutiny, public hearing in January
- RCMP report gives overview of criminal activity in Sooke, October and year to date
- Presentation to Sooke Council: People living rough could die while governments decide what to do with them
- Acting mayor schedule for 2019
- Meeting dates for regular Council meetings in 2019 scheduled
- West Coast Road sidewalk to Ed McGregor Park to be funded by the sprinkler fund
- New council pushes “What’s in it for Sooke” when it comes to development
- Longtime illegal welding business to face enforcement, temporary permit denied
- Applicant driving the temporary use permit misses deadline to apply
- Controversial “house-keeping” bylaw passes Council scrutiny, public hearing in January
- New council cautiously defers text amendment to zoning bylaw, regarding temporary use permits
- Letter: Councillor puts District at risk, admits liability in public meeting
- Closing act: Sooke Council narrowly passes OCP amendment
- Delegation: Derek Lewers presents years of frustration to Sooke Council
- Long-established business with improper zoning & licensing plagues politicians, business owner and neighbours
- Legal matters prevent Sooke council from providing information
- Delegation: Lewers’ family asks the District to stand by their bylaws
- Want to do business with the District? Then a business licence from the District will be required
- Controversial licence rescinded, business owner to appeal
- Council to receive report that chastises Council for granting a business licence
- Delegation reveals Sooke Council divided on being informed
- DELEGATION: Recent bad Council decision tied to the lack of an up-to-date OCP
- District of Sooke grants improper business licence, violates its own zoning