Sooke Council was clearly befuddled on how to swiftly resolve an affordable housing matter for a resident of Sooke, at the February 12 2018 Regular Council meeting. Land owner Laurie Hicks put in a request last September to have a manufactured home installed on her land, and she indicated it was a Z240 (manufactured home). Because her application received a complaint, and because Sooke’s zoning bylaw is complaint-based, the application cannot proceed. Between receiving an initial approval and a later withdrawal of that approval, Hicks spent about $40,000, including fees, septic work, and a down payment on the home. It was clear that all Council members who showed up wanted to see the right thing done for Hicks as soon as humanly possible, and it was equally clear that staff needed to follow the rules and regulations … which meant there was no resolution possible before mid-March.
On September 7 2017, Laurie Hicks put in a request to the District of Sooke to get approval for a CSA-Z240 manufactured home to be installed on a lot she owns on Sooke River Road.
In a staff report, there is confirmation that the application was received on September 7, 2017. An internal process that took place in October, and the Planning Department noted that “if the building was a CSA Z240 standard then it would not be permitted on the property under the zoning bylaw.” The report indicated “There is a note on file that that the application was verbally approved by the Chief Administrative Officer on October 27, 2017 after discussion with Building Department staff however, this cannot be confirmed at this time.” It also noted a complaint had been received and the CAO “advised building department staff not to issue the permit until the issue of zoning had been clarified.”
Two months after submitting her request, on November 11, Hicks was informed that the approval was ready for pickup. All she had to do was pay the appropriate fees, and she could bring in her new home. In preparation, she had put $15,000 down on the home, had paid $16,550 to have the septic work done, and had absorbed other costs.
Shortly thereafter she learned there was an issue with zoning, and that her request now had to go before council. Not hearing anything further, Hicks presented to Council on December 11 during the Public Input portion of the meeting. At the meeting during the discussion of Affordable Housing, Council passed a motion directing staff to prepare an actual zoning bylaw amendment for Council to consider at the first Regular meeting on January 15. It would take at least two meetings, one to present the proposed amendment (January 15) and another to incorporate Council’s changes and give approvals (January 29). The earliest a resolution was possible, noted staff, was by the end of January.
January came and went, and this item never appears on either of the two agendas. Not having heard an update, Laurie Hicks requested a delegation before (a presentation to) Council on February 5 2018, and on Friday February 9 her presentation was confirmed.
In this presentation at the February 13 Regular Council meeting, Hicks was clearly frustrated. She asked Council how was it that others had been allowed to add their homes, but she wasn’t? She knew of at least four other properties that had received permits.
During the discussion of the item, it was noted that staff was requested to look into this at the December 11 meeting. Staff noted that they were seeking expert consultation on Thursday, February 15. It was noted that the District is seriously understaffed. It was also noted that the Salmon Restoration has what is known as a double-wide manufactured home on their property, but because it wasn’t specified as a CSA-Z240, there was nothing dis-allowing it from being put on the lot. Mayor Tait noted that an applicant who is choosing to follow all the rules is actually being punished by the process, and there was something horrible wrong with that scenario. Staff noted that Sooke bylaws are complaint-driven, and the application by Hicks had received a complaint.
Councillor Bev Berger noted there was a difference in the zoning bylaw definitions of a “dwelling unit” which included manufactured homes (specifically the CSA-Z240) and a “single family dwelling unit” which excluded manufactured homes. Both she and Councillor Rick Kasper sought a text amendment. Staff said the implications could be sweeping, and proper consultation with a subject matter expert needed to take place. Councillor Kerrie Reay, as she consistently does, warned against “motions on the fly,” even though she too wanted to see a swift resolution specific for Hicks. Councillor Brenda Parkinson echoed Reay’s concerns, saying a massive bylaw change for one situation wasn’t fitting.
There were two distinct camps. It was clear that all Councillors wanted to see a swift resolution to Hicks’s situation, and all Councillors had a commitment to pursue affordable housing. It was also clear that staff needed to ensure that everything was conducted legally, and that the full implications of any bylaw changes would be fully considered.
Ultimately, a motion was passed for staff to produce a report with options for Council to consider. Staff is meeting with a subject matter expert on Thursday. Hopefully, for the sake of Laurie Hicks, this item will be on the next agenda, at the February 26 Regular Council meeting. The earliest possible date for a resolution, provided all goes according to plan, is March 12, 2018.
Councillors Ebony Logins and Kevin Pearson were not at this meeting. Councillor Reay left later on in the meeting due to illness, but was present for this portion of the meeting. The CAO was not present at this meeting.
Also from the February 13 2018 Regular Council Meeting
- Sooke Council rejects CRD Bylaw 4093: Regional Transportation Service
- Sooke Councillors interest in resolving an affordable housing matter at odds with staff’s need for legal and informed input