Future plans for the long-time and recently closed Blue Heron restaurant site got a range of “thumbs up” comments from members of Sechelt’s Advisory Planning Commission (APC). That group reviewed the development’s rezoning application package and heard from the project’s consultant Angela Letman of Very Coast Planning and Design at its May 3 meeting.
The commission recommended that the application be sent for council consideration and that the project come back for APC comment in advance of any development permit issuance.
The application summary on the commission meeting agenda stated that a community information meeting was planned to be hosted by the proponent. If a zoning amendment bylaw is considered, that process requires the municipality to hold a public hearing unless that requirement is waived by council.
Letman said that Sanlin Hong has owned the East Porpoise Bay neighbourhood property (5991 Delta Road) for more than a year. With the decision of tenants and restaurateurs, the Medeiros, to close their food service operation last month, Hong wants to rezone the .7-acre parcel and modify the existing building into a three-to-five-suite lodge with small-scale conference facilities.
No public restaurant is planned for the new development and Letman said that changes to the dock’s designation as a private moorage facility are not contemplated in the application. She explained that the owner may consider dock redevelopment for public, non-motorized watercraft use at in the future. Any changes for the dock would need to go through a process with the province and the shíshálh Nation.
A colourful past
In review of the site’s history, Letman said the location was originally part of Lot 1438, created in 1946. That lot was part of the Crucil family’s properties and was used in logging operations. When the Sunshine Coast Regional District was created in 1967, the area was zoned industrial and when Sechelt became a district municipality in 1986, that zoning was retained. Restaurant combined with residential uses continued for more than 30 years despite being inconsistent with the lot’s zoning. Sechelt’s Official Community Plan identifies the lot as within a tourist/commercial area.
As the lot size and setbacks of the existing structures showed “great discrepancies in non-conformancy” with its existing land use designation, Letman explained that re-zoning to tourism commercial (C-3, in Sechelt’s existing zoning bylaw) is being proposed. That designation allows for hotel, motel, lodge, marina, restaurant or tourist commercial operation use, as well as for one residential unit on the site. She noted that existing development on the lot is within the C-3 zoning setbacks, except for a small section of the main structure along the south property line. There are plans to request a setback variance to allow that encroachment to remain.
Commission members asked questions about the extension of the existing waterfront walking path in the area along the subject property. Letman said that was being discussed with municipal planning staff and that type of change would also need the involvement of the First Nation.
Another inquiry was raised regarding the lot’s septic system. As the site had been a restaurant, Letman said that she believed the existing system would be large enough to handle waste from the proposed lodge use. She noted that would need to be confirmed by Vancouver Coastal Health.
“I think this is a really good project, adding tourist accommodation in a properly zoned zone," APC Chairperson Randy Knill said. In relation to the timing of the application coming to the comission, he said it was “nice to see things early on in the process."