City of Powell River Council has unanimously approved relaxing the minimum rear setbacks from 7.5 metres to 5.5 metres for a vacant parcel of land along Gabriola Crescent.
At its meeting on Thursday, December 5, council considered a development variance permit that had been contentious at the November 21 council meeting, where neighbours had expressed opposition to the development variance permit. Neighbours at the November meeting expressed concerns over privacy, and about the prospect of two-storey houses being built in the subdivision, which is allowable under the property’s RM1 zoning.
At the December 5 meeting, mayor Dave Formosa said that at the previous meeting, the community and developers had a “friendly chat,” which is not something that generally happens, but council thought it was well worth the effort for everyone to speak respectfully.
Powell River resident Eric Williamson said he had a couple of concerns, one being a water source in the neighbourhood. He said the developer told him he has a way of controlling it.
“If that is correct, that concern is taken away, but I wanted to make that concern noted,” said Williamson. “The other, of course, is the two-storey houses, which we were afraid might be a continuance of what we saw on the eastern boundary.”
Formosa said a stormwater management plan is part of the engineering process, and without such, the project will not go ahead.
“It will not only be verified by their engineer by also by the city’s,” said Formosa.
Resident Debra Robertson said her biggest concern had to do with Gabriola Crescent. She said the developer has stated the turnabout on the road is just temporary until the adjoining property is developed. At that time the road would go around to the top of Glacier Street and join up with Gabriola Crescent. She said it is unclear as to who is going to develop this.
“How temporary is it going to be?” asked Robertson “I don’t know if any of you were able to see what we were talking about, how the turnabout is constructed, but it was also stated they weren’t able to do a proper one around the end because it would encroach on the adjoining property.
“The obvious question is: why weren’t they required to build a proper turnabout on their property? That would probably result in building less homes. It’s frustrating for us because it’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.”
Formosa said he is not sure who owns the adjacent property. Developer Darren Edwards told council it was not 3C1B Developments’ property.
Robertson said the neighbours’ concern was emergency vehicles are going to have a difficult time and the danger of things going wrong is increased.
Formosa said when it comes to the turnabout, the city’s engineering staff look at the emergency vehicles and the ability to do safe turns. They will assure there is the ability to do a safe turn, he added.
Resident Les Lewis said he wants to know if the developers were going to live up to their word from the previous council meeting that they are going to put ranchers in the subdivision, and that nothing has changed since the last meeting.
Edwards said he gave his word at the previous council meeting that there are 16 rancher homes that will be built in the subdivision.
“They are all one-level homes,” said Edwards.
Councillor Rob Southcott said there were more reasons to build two-storey houses in the subdivision if the variance did not go through.
“The variance would accommodate the concerns of everyone who has presented so I support this recommendation,” said Southcott.
Councillor George Doubt said he was in favour of the variance. He thanked the members of the public for making presentations at both meetings, along with the developers. He said the vote before council was about changing rear setbacks and nothing else.
Councillor Cindy Elliott said it seems like the best chance for the neighbours getting what they want is to approve the variance.
According to a report from city manager of planning services Jason Gow, in conversation with the developer, the variance request is tied to their wish to locate new single-family dwellings further away from the street without giving up development potential. He stated that their rationale is that houses built right up to the 4.5-metre front setback line of the RM1 zone have a shorter driveway length, which can lead to the city sidewalk being encumbered by a larger vehicle when parked in this location.
“City staff have observed this situation and concur that providing a larger front setback at the expense of reduced rear setback is a reasonable trade-off,” stated Gow, “if it means city sidewalks are less likely to be blocked by vehicles.”