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Director attempts to stop the rot

Planning committee grapples with inconsistent land uses

Residents affected by business owners setting up shop on property not designated for their operations clamoured for protection last week.

About 50 people packed into the Poplar Room at Powell River Recreation Complex on March 16 for a special Powell River Regional District planning committee meeting that was devoted solely to the draft official community plan (OCP) for Areas B and C.

Business owners of some of the contentious land-use issues were also present, which at times led to heated and raucous debate during the three-and-a-half hour meeting. Adding to the uproar was a split on the committee, which resulted in a succession of tied votes on motions to change some of the contentious designations. In general, the directors who represent areas south of town, Colin Palmer, regional board chair and Area C director, and Stan Gisborne, planning committee chair and Area B director, voted against any restrictions to businesses, while Patrick Brabazon, Area A director, and Dave Murphy, Texada Island director, voted in favour of changes that would have protected residential values.

Because the regional district does not have zoning bylaws in Areas B or C, businesses can legally establish operations on any piece of property and the regional district can do nothing about it.

Many people at the meeting called for zoning to protect their residences and investments. In response, Palmer held up a 100-page zoning bylaw from Pender Harbour in the Sunshine Coast Regional District. “It contains some fascinating stuff for rural people,” Palmer said. The bylaw stipulates how high a house can be, where chickens and rabbits may be kept, how many parking spaces a commercial outlet must have, Palmer added. “I’m not interested in rural bylaws that control people like that,” he said. “We will talk to people about, if they want zoning, do they understand what we’re talking about and do they want a hundred pages of bylaws with a regional district policeman running around checking up on them.”

But people in the audience claimed Palmer was using the worst example of zoning as a fear-mongering tactic.

Palmer also said he was concerned that businesses were being picked on. But Brabazon said he had taken a consistent position on the abuse of OCPs through the legitimization of existing uses that are in contrary to OCPs. “If you know that a piece of land is residential and you move an industrial operation in on it, then, I’m sorry, I will simply not vote to accept that,” he said. “There needs to be a standard.”

Palmer has spoken about “stopping the rot,” Brabazon also said. “By all means, let’s stop it, let’s be consistent and always take the position that an existing use

should not be legitimized.”

During the meeting, directors considered motions about a sawmill that is operating on property designated rural residential in the current OCP, which the owner has asked to be changed to heavy industrial in the draft OCP. Murphy  made a motion, seconded by Brabazon, to keep the property rural residential. Initially Palmer and Gisborne thought they had voted in opposition to the motion, but because they failed to raise their hands, the motion passed.

Directors also voted on a motion to retain the low density designation on a property on Stevenson Road that has a new batch cement plant on it. In the draft plan, the parcel is designated half heavy industrial and half low density residential. Because the vote was tied, the motion was defeated.

Another motion dealt with a property on the other side of Stevenson Road that has an automobile recovery/salvage operation on it. It is designated commercial and the owner has requested a change to heavy industrial. Directors passed a motion to defer changing it until the planner advises them if a new designation just for its use can be created.

Gisborne spent more than an hour going over in detail an eight-page letter from David Moore, a resident in Area C who has been involved in the OCP review process from the beginning. Moore’s letter analyzed the draft OCP and Don Turner, planner, responded in writing to each of his points. Gisborne explained Turner’s points and gave Moore an opportunity to respond. While many of Moore’s concerns focused on the lack of regulations, he also offered suggestions, such as designating the Gela Road area commercial.

Directors also voted to change the designation of a property adjacent to Myrtle Creek to commercial.