City of Powell River councillors were divided on the proposed rezoning of property at 5201 Manson Avenue from A1 (small lot rural residential) to CD4 (comprehensive development 4 residential small lots).
At the January 19 city council meeting, councillors considered a third reading of the rezoning bylaw. Councillor George Doubt said a public hearing had been held and the matter had been gone through in great detail.
“I actually support this because the city needs this kind of housing,” said Doubt. “It’s more affordable than some others. I wouldn’t call it affordable housing but it’s definitely intended to be less expensive. It’s smaller buildings on smaller lots and provides housing that is needed in the community.”
Councillor Rob Southcott said he had a differing view.
“Passing this zoning amendment and simultaneously saying that we believe in sustainability is nothing short of hypocrisy,” said Southcott. “Our official community plan (OCP) is nine years old. Our zoning bylaw is 17 years old. We have made many amendments, particularly to the zoning bylaw, but also to the OCP, to allow the CD zones, of which we have seven now, really targeting sustainability.
“There are still some stunning gaps and I believe this zoning amendment application is an example of that.”
Southcott said in the past, there has been compensation for gaps by following staff advice.
“This time, we’ve let a developer walk through one of those gaps in spite of advice from our staff and in spite of ample policy to guide us, consistent with that staff advice,” said Southcott. “There are two major sustainability issues for me. One is taxes.”
Southcott said planning department staff developed a taxation value-mapping tool which shows that if the city grants the proposed Manson Avenue zoning amendment, this development will be as sustainable as the south half of Westview, which isn’t sustainable.
The Manson subdivision is in walkable and cyclable distance of the city core and there is a principle that the city has been moving toward, said Southcott.
“We have been applying for quite a while now, with the encouragement of our planning department, greater densification than CD4 for land that is as close to the core of our community,” he added. “What planning wanted was greater density. I still want to see that happen. This developer did not want to go along with the advice that planning gave us.”
Southcott said council has been entrusted by the electors to have vision.
“This is our last opportunity to prevent this mistake, to honour the knowledge and vision of our staff, and do the right thing for an increasingly struggling community. I’m urging us to vote against this motion.”
Councillors Palm, Elliott and Doubt spoke in favour of the motion.
Elliott said the zoning bylaw and OCP are not caught up and the current A1 zoning on the property is not appropriate.
“We all agree the density needs to be better than that,” she added. “The original thought of the developer was a lot less dense than where he landed. He didn’t think he wanted to propose zoning that planning thought he should.
“In the absence of policy that guides developers when they come to our city and invest here, it is important we take into account the investments they have put here. It is not entirely fair to expect someone who is trying to develop in this city to predict what council might decide is a good zone based on an out-of-date zoning bylaw and OCP.”
Elliott said none of what is being proposed is affordable housing. She said there is not enough housing at all levels.
“Denying the application based on the fact that it doesn’t meet what we’d like to see in an OCP if we did get around to updating it is not right or administratively fair,” added Elliott.
Councillor Trina Isakson said affordable housing is needed in town and the affordability of single-family homes is out of reach to the average family income in this community. She said she is in favour of staff’s recommendations for more of a fourplex orientation to increase density and affordability and to consider tax fairness for future generations.
She added that there are examples of successful multifamily dwellings near the downtown core.
Doubt said the proponent for the development has said if the city insisted on having row housing at the site, he could not afford to build on it and take the risk. He said the current proposal is more sustainable than the existing housing on the property.
Council voted in favour of third reading, with Southcott and Isakson opposed.
The property is a 2.15 hectare (5.31 acre) parcel of land on which developer Alan Rebane has said he wants to construct a number of residences. The property currently has one house on it.