City of Powell River Council has postponed a decision to relax the minimum rear yard setback for a vacant parcel of land along Gabriola Crescent.
At the council meeting on Thursday, November 21, councillors heard from a number of neighbours opposed to the initiative, as well as from developers of the planned subdivision for the neighbourhood.
City planning assistant Rachel Pukesh said the department had been speaking with multiple members of the public at the city hall counter in regard to the issue. She said the property in question was a vacant property, with Gabriola Crescent running through it. The property measures 1.2 hectares in size and is zoned RM1, which is compact residential. Pukesh said the zone is intended for ground-oriented single-family homes, townhomes, cluster homes or compact housing.
The owner of the property has applied to subdivide the property into 16 lots. In the RM1 zone, the minimum setback is 7.5 metres. Pukesh said the zone has a maximum height of 8.5 metres, which is just under 28 feet, so two-storey homes can be built in the zone.
The applicant had requested a development variance permit to reduce the rear setback by two metres, which is approximately six and a half feet.
Pukesh said the biggest concern she had heard from those adjacent to the new subdivision was from people in existing rancher-style homes on the northern side of Glacier Street who are adjoining these new lots.
“They are concerned about a relaxation of the rear yard setback and the ability to build a two-storey home,” said Pukesh. “They are concerned about a potential loss of privacy.”
Mayor Dave Formosa asked those in attendance if anyone wanted to provide comment on the proposed development variance permit.
Les Lewis said all of the houses adjoining the proposed subdivision are ranchers. Lewis added that if the variance proceeded, developers could put a big house behind his residence, bring the house closer to the property line and devalue his property.
“I’m not for this and I don’t think any of the people who are here in the room are for this,” said Lewis.
Eric Williamson said he had lived in the neighbourhood for six years. He said he had some strong concerns about the setback. One is the loss of privacy.
“We are now going to be sitting in a fishbowl,” said Williamson. “We are also concerned about the two-storey height. People can look down in our houses, which means we will have to be fully blinded if we want any privacy at all.”
He said property values will go down. He said the neighbourhood is comprised of ranchers and that policy should stick.
“We feel there needs to be more consideration for those of us who live on Glacier Street,” said Williamson. “We are hoping city council sees our concerns and we hope they act on those concerns, and request that the developer honour those concerns and build accordingly.”
Delores Thompson said she had come to voice her serious concerns. She said she was 90 years old. She said she and her husband worked hard over the years to have what they have and chose their residence because of all of the things they could enjoy. She said the prospect of two-storey residences behind her was devastating news.
“It would effectively be a huge financial setback,” she said.
Warren Behan, one of the developers of the property with 3C1B Developments, said one of the reasons his company was seeking the setback was so it could build ranchers on the property. By not allowing the setback, the builders would probably build two-storey houses in the subdivision, he said.
“Allowing the variance is going to protect your privacy more than if we built a two-storey home, which is within the zoning,” said Behan. He said the intention was to build 1,500 to 1,700 square foot ranchers in the subdivision when asking for the variance.
Darren Edwards, another of the developers, said the greatest demand is for the same kind of homes people in the adjoining subdivision are living in.
“That’s what we want to build on those 16 lots,” said Edwards. He added that two-storey homes would fetch a greater dollar value for the developers, but he said he had the welfare of the existing property owners at stake.
“We are wanting to build all ranchers in that development,” said Edwards. “The lots have got smaller and the demand is for bigger ranchers. I have, already, 16 rancher plans engineered and ready for permit as soon as the subdivision receives final approval from the land titles office. I already have 16 homes and they are all ranchers.”
Formosa said the city has no power to stop two-storey residences in the subdivision because the zoning allows it. He said council could choose to not allow the setback.
Councillor George Doubt said he had quickly looked through the petition from residents, and letters, which he received when he walked into city hall before the council meeting. He said he had not had time to read them all in detail.
“It’s a bit too quick to make a decision this evening and I’d like to refer it to the next council meeting so we have time to reflect on what we’ve heard tonight,” said Doubt.
Councillor Maggie Hathaway concurred with Doubt’s recommendation to defer the decision until the next could meeting, as did councillors Cindy Elliott, Jim Palm and Rob Southcott.
Council voted to defer the decision on the setback to the December 5 council meeting.