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City of Powell River council approves height variance for proposed building below School District 47 office

Decision to lift restrictions made after hearing from neighbour
WANTS ADJUSTMENT: Developer Alan Rebane appeared before City of Powell River council to explain an experiment he conducted with balloons to determine the view scape behind a residence he is planning to build on Quebec Avenue. A development variance permit had been applied for to allow the roofline to be raised 1.5 metres over maximum height restriction.

After a postponement so further investigation could be conducted, City of Powell River council approved a variance for a vacant lot of Quebec Avenue, below the School District 47 office, to relax the maximum height restrictions for a building.

At the February 17 city council meeting, councillors considered a development variance permit that would allow the height of a proposed building to go from 8.5 metres to 10 metres. The permit had originally been reviewed at the February 3 council meeting but was postponed when concerns were expressed. The postponement was to allow review and to further consider view and sightlines related to the proposal.

At the council meeting, an opportunity was provided for comment on the proposed variance and Jeremy Garth, who lives in the neighbourhood, addressed council. He told council he is living behind the proposed variance.

He said he looked at some photographs that were taken, with balloons signifying the height of the proposed building below his residence, and the pictures didn’t show his home’s point of view.

“It is tough for me to make a judgment call on something like this,” said Garth. “Overall, I am most worried about precedent with this being approved. There are other vacant lots in the surrounding area.

“At the end of the day, if it’s not going to impact the community, I don’t have a problem, but I just feel at this time I haven’t seen enough from my vantage point to make a clear judgment on whether or not I can be okay with it.”

Councillor Cindy Elliott asked Garth if he was advised the balloon trial was going on, and whether the builder had talked to him since the February 3 meeting. Garth said there had been no communication.

Councillor Jim Palm said when the balloon trial was going on, he had knocked on Garth’s door to advise him the trial was happening, but no one seemed to be home. Palm said he took a look from Garth’s porch to check whether the view would be disrupted, and also took a photograph.

Alan Rebane, developer for the project, said he liked the suggestion for floating the balloons to get an idea of the impact of the roofline. Rebane said he got hold of Palm to be present for the trial and pictures were taken.

“Apparently, balloons were a good idea and they speak for themselves,” said Rebane. “I’m trying to satisfy everybody and I don’t want to block anybody’s view.”

Councillor George Doubt said he spent some time in the neighbourhood and he could see, using cars parked in the school board parking lot as a potential obstacle, that as far as he could tell, nobody is going to be losing a view. He said he would be supporting the variance.

Hathaway raises concern

Councillor Maggie Hathaway said she, too, went and looked at the neighbourhood. She said the requested variance was 1.5 metres in height. She asked how high the ceilings were in the house. Rebane said they were 10 feet. Hathaway asked if they could be made nine feet. Rebane said he tried but it ruined the aesthetics of the outside of the house.

Hathaway said her concern is not this house, because it doesn’t look like there is a view blockage, and saving views is not council’s function, but she said there is a bylaw in place, and if a variance is allowed for this property, there are lots down the street. She said if variances were requested on those, views would be blocked.

“That’s a concern for me because how do we say yes to this one and no to that one,” said Hathaway.

Rebane said there is a covenant in place for that property to protect views.

Elliott said variances are okay if the neighbours don’t object.

“I’m of the opinion that if there are neighbours in the vicinity of the project that object to a variance, there’s already a bylaw in place that handles those matters,” said Elliott. “What I’ve been hearing from the gentleman here [Garth] is a concern about variances in general. I would be inclined to not approve the variance unless there was an agreement with the neighbour that has the objection that he no longer objects.”

Palm said he had a clear picture he took from Garth’s porch and wanted to share the photo with anyone who wanted to see it.

“From my photo you can see the house directly across from him that impairs his view of the water, but the new house does not impair any of his view of the beautiful Salish Sea,” said Palm.

Palm shared the photo with Garth and several councillors. After reviewing the photograph, Garth said based on the picture, he did not have any concern with the view being blocked.

“I’m satisfied from that picture that it doesn’t impede our view,” said Garth.

Council voted in favour of the development variance permit being granted, with Hathaway opposed.