-Britt Santowski, BA, MA
Publisher Sooke PocketNews
On Monday, October 23, Sooke Council will be asked to receive a staff report which appears to thoroughly chastise Council for improperly granting a business licence.
“As Council did not have the authority to issue a business licence, the business licence issued to [said business] on September 18, 2017 is invalid. The business owner has been advised of such and of the appeal process.”
Quoting Sooke Bylaw 301 3(a), the report to be received by Council states, unequivocally, “Council does not have the authority to issue a business licence. Council’s involvement in business licensing is limited to hearing an appeal of a refusal or cancellation decision by the Licence Inspector. This authority is delegated to the Licence Inspector under section 12 of the Business Licence Bylaw.” For those wondering, Sooke’s Licence Inspector is the town’s sole bylaw officer.
Yet, at the September 18th meeting, both staff and Council acted as though they were completely united in their agreement that this particular licensing decision fell to Council, as approval hinged entirely (and wrongly) on the application being “legal non-conforming.”
The inclusion of “legal non-conforming” that appeared in the motion was an amendment added by the CAO. “If the motion can include wording such that Council recognizes that it’s a legal non-conforming use of the land, that would be most appropriate, to provide direction to staff,” said the CAO at about 22 minutes into that meeting.
Legal non-conforming applies when a property (and its ongoing usage) straddles two administration. While presented as the main point, it did not apply. Councillor Kerrie Reay later acknowledged that the date of purchase (2000) presented a problem.
In Monday’s upcoming report, there is staff acknowledgement that the request did not fall under legal non-conforming, though due to zoning and not the date of purchase (not mentioned in their report).
“The type of business for which the applicant sought a business licence (fabrication and welding repairs, automotive repairs and sales) has never been a permitted use under the zoning bylaw and therefor (sic) is not deemed to be lawfully non-conforming,” reads the report, echoing what was pointed out in an earlier SPN article. “The use has also never been permitted through a Temporary Use Permit. The result is that the business is in violation of section 4(a) of the Business Licence Bylaw and cannot be issued a business licence.”
As was also reported by SPN, the District (staff and Council) knew the proposed licensing conflicted with current zoning before the request for a business licence was made. In a piece of correspondence obtained by SPN, the mayor observed the business operator “was told [by the CAO and the Director of Development Services who did a site visit] that selling vehicles was not permitted under the existing zoning and that he would need to make application to the District for rezoning of his property. Staff informed [the business operator] that the approval of said application would be challenging given the current OCP designation for the area.”
At the September 18 Council meeting, there was ample discussion as to who should be responsible for granting business licences in legal non-conforming situations. Councillor Kerrie Reay made an impassioned plea that this was a Council responsibility, and that staff should not have to face whatever public fallout from what should be a Council responsibility. Monday’s upcoming report from Staff appears almost to chastise Council for deigning to assume that authority (or as presented by Reay, that protection from public harassment). Councillor Rick Kasper felt that blanket approvals for legal non-conforming situations should be rubber-stamped by staff without having to come to Council for a decision. This whole conversation, as it turns out, was a big wolfish waft of wasted wind, as legal non-conforming did not apply.
This report to be presented on Monday was requested by Council (supported by Mayor Maja Tait, and Councillors Kerrie Reay, Brenda Parkinson and Bev Berger); Councillors Rick Kasper and Kevin Pearson were opposed to staff issuing this report. Kasper expressed disappointment that the business owner even had to apply to Council for a business licence, and felt it this particular business owner should have received a licence years ago when it was first requested (and denied) in 2008 (because welding was not allowed as a home-based business). Kasper also expressly wanted the phrasing of this particular business licence to reflect the business owner’s request (a business doing “fabrication and welding repairs, automotive repairs and sales”), so that appropriate business insurances could be purchased by the business owner.
This report does not address what may happen as a result of the business being in violation of current (and historical) zoning. It does not address why a staff granted a mobile business licence to a full service welding shop. Nor does mention how the licence was issued by staff in one day (September 19) without obtaining proper inter-departmental approvals.
Seven part-time elected officials (paid a small stipend) are responsible for setting policy; over 30 full time staff are responsible for carrying out the day-to-day business of the District of Sooke.
The strategic relevance of this report was given as: “Excellence in Governance and Management – focus on good governance.”
- You can read the full report from staff to Council here.
- The full agenda to Monday’s meeting is available here.
- 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
Since you’re here, we have a small favour to ask.
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