Initial steps, including potential waiver of a public hearing for a rezoning at 565 Gibsons Way, got the go-ahead at a special council meeting on June 20. However, the required notifications regarding dates for first reading of any zoning amendment bylaw won’t go out any time soon.
In advance of proceeding with those, council asked staff to develop a report and set up a community dialogue session on adjusting allowed uses for lots adjacent to that property. Within both, topics like view protection, zoning, residential density and housing are to be discussed. The focus area will be south of Adonidas Way, between Gibsons Way and North Fletcher Road.
Those add-ons resulted from debate on the rezoning application, which would see six residential units, in the form of two duplexes containing four primary residences and two secondary suites. A single-family residence exists on the site, which is zoned for a duplex. Current maximum site density is five residential units: a duplex containing two primary residences, each with a suite and a garden suite.
During debate on the matter at a committee meeting held earlier that day, Coun. Stafford Lumley said such “spot zoning” applications “drive me crazy." In his view, those set a precedent and result in owners of similar properties also applying for changes, adding more zoning amendment applications and potentially more public hearings to the town’s workload. Rather than allowing varied conditions for individual properties, said he favoured looking at rule adjustments applied to specific areas.
The proposed move from one to two residential structures on the site and potential impacts on views for neighbours was a sticking point for Coun. Annemarie De Andrade. She also expressed a lack of “comfort” with “spot zonings."
At the committee meeting, staff noted taking the steps to consider changes for a wider area will delay consideration of the application for 565 Gibsons Way by “months, potentially up to a year." Staff also stated that as signage about the application was erected at the site in February, a number of neighbours and other members of the public are aware of the proposal and have contacted the town with comments.
What's the application?
The rezoning would amend the property’s use from single/duplex to cluster residential. The duplex units planned are to have three to four bedrooms each. Two double garages and uncovered onsite vehicle parking, including two spots for visitors to the property, are proposed.
“The proposal here is to include rentals at the site and that is something I’m excited about," Gibsons Mayor Silas White told Coast Reporter by telephone on June 19.
At the committee meeting, a spokesperson for the project stated a willingness to enter into a covenant on the property barring the use of the suites as residential guest accommodation (short-term rentals).
Items contained in the staff report on the meeting agenda but held for later consideration included a requirement for fire sprinklers in the proposed new housing units and a letter from the developer offering a community amenity contribution of $10,000 in keeping with the town’s policy. Further discussion on those will follow once the process of the rezoning application is finalized.
Public hearing process is 'garbage'
In committee debate on options for incorporating community input into rezoning discussions, Mayor Silas White said “I think public hearings are garbage." He described those formalized meetings as “restrictive” and “confrontational." The practice of hosting hearings after zoning or official community plan amendment bylaws for developments have received second reading is “too late in the process” according to White.
He said he supported recent changes to the Local Government Act that allow local councils to waive public hearings, the process that staff was recommending be considered in the case of the application for 565 Gibsons Way. In that process, the local government provides notice to the community about the proposed bylaw including the date when first reading will be considered. In that way, members of the public have access to the details of the bylaw at an earlier point and can come forward with questions and comments for council consideration.
“We do want to make sure there is ample opportunity for people to provide input into this proposal…I find most people dislike public hearings. I am one of them. They are very one way. There is no space for conversation in the way that they are legislated," White stated in the June 19 interview.