None of the 100 or so public attendees who tuned in to the Sunshine Coast Regional District’s (SCRD) Sept. 6 online public hearing spoke in favour of the proposed new zoning bylaw as presented.
“Rushed” was the term used to describe the process related to the new bylaw 722 by more than half of the 42 people that spoke during the event. Several stated they had learned about the hearing mere days, and in some cases hours, before it was held. Many questioned the decision to host the hearing and other information activities on the bylaw that would impact land use in all rural Coast areas except Pender Harbour/Egmont (covered by a different bylaw) during the busy summer months.
“The only way we are going to get a proper bylaw in place is there has to be proper public consultation. I wonder how many people have not heard about this meeting. This is where this has failed, it has failed in having our voices properly heard,” one speaker stated.
Home-based business restrictions questioned
New restrictions on home-based businesses and for agricultural uses on residential properties received the bulk of the public’s critiques during the three-and-a-half-hour meeting.
In the hearing’s opening remarks, planning staff noted that input had been received on how bylaw provisions restricting the number of visitors to home-based art studios could impact the Sunshine Coast Art Crawl. Staff suggestions that the SCRD could opt not to enforce the bylaw during the event did not satisfy a number of speakers who identified themselves as Art Crawl participants and supporters. One stated that would put her “in the difficult position of deciding to participate in an illegal activity” and others noted that if the event was not a legal use, it could be shut down in the future, if complaints were filed or the will of the board changed.
The reasons behind proposed limits of six visitors per day to home-based entrepreneur’s sites were questioned. Staff indicated the number was based on research from other areas and local government best practices. Attendees responded that the bylaw should recognize and support the “uniqueness” of the Coast. Several speakers stated a new provision that would stop home-based businesses from employing people who do not live on-site was also too restrictive.
Concerns for loss of agricultural uses
A proposed ban on the keeping of chickens, bees or other livestock on rural properties under 1,000 square meters and new limits on those for larger residentially zoned properties were cited as being detrimental to achieving local food security. There were calls from the public to develop a separate bylaw to address these items rather than including them in the large and complex zoning bylaw.
The message expressed by most who spoke was that the SCRD should be doing more to support, rather than restrict, small-scale entrepreneurial use of residential properties, which were identified as key to the health of the economy and lifestyle of the area. One speaker ended her presentation in tears as she pleaded with the board to do things to “make life more affordable” on the Coast.
Other bylaw adjustments requested by public attendees related to changes proposed for rural property buildings. One speaker suggested that new size limits for auxiliary buildings, often used to house home-based businesses, should be based on the property size rather than the size of the residence on the site, as proposed in the draft. “Not everyone wants or needs a larger house…and I don’t think it is the government's business to tell me how much space I need to do business,” he stated.
Concerns were also expressed about bylaw changes to setbacks of structures from the ocean and the removal of height restrictions for green roofs and wind turbines.
Hearing co-chair, Sechelt area director Darnelda Siegers called for a stop to statements made by an attendee that strayed away from the bylaw and toward the subject of the board’s record on the region’s water supply.
Former SCRD Chair and Director for Roberts Creek Donna Shugar asked staff given the volume of input received at the hearing if it was feasible for bylaw changes to be drafted and considered and to have a second public hearing advertised and hosted before the new board takes office on Nov. 10. Staff responded that timing “would be difficult.”
The bylaw as it stands has passed two readings.
The hearing was chaired by Area B director Lori Pratt, and attended by directors Siegers, Hiltz, McMahon and Lee.