After much discussion and disapproval of an applicant’s non-compliance, Sechelt council chose to grant part of a requested variance permit, but deny an additional request.
At the March 15 council meeting, staff presented an application for a development variance permit at 1536 McCullough Road to vary the front yard setbacks in an effort to retroactively legitimize non-compliance.
In 2021, the owners applied for a development permit to build a single family dwelling with a retaining wall, as well as a guest cottage, landscape wall and septic system on the property in ts’ukw’um (Wilson Creek). Though a development permit and building permit were issued, staff noted multiple changes had been made without authorization, including location of the accessory dwelling, the retaining wall and the configuration of the driveway. A second unapproved driveway was added and “removed a number of protected trees without authorization from the District,” staff presented. A stop work order was issued in December 2021. Enforcement issues will be dealt with separately from the variance application, staff said.
In addition to reducing the front setback from five metres for the already-built detached accessory dwelling unit, the retaining structure wall and the concrete wall, the owners also requested a variance for the roof overhang of the principal dwelling — from five metres to 8.1 centimetres — that has not been built yet.
Staff recommended a relaxation of the front lot line setback of 1.62 to 1.81 metres would be considered reasonable for the constructed guest cottage. But staff suggested council deny the proposed variance for the principal dwelling, on the basis that it does not fit the criteria.
“A requested variance, the way we assess them, is that they must be reasonable, must maintain the intent of the regulation, and should minimize any potential negative impacts on neighbours or the streetscape,” staff said.
Coun. Brenda Rowe was the first to comment, saying, “To sum it up, zero rules were adhered to in this case. Was there anything that was built as expected to be?” She then asked what the ramifications would be if council denied the permit for what has already been built.
Staff replied that being unable to conclude the building permits would mean they could not have occupancy, and that could lead to a notice on title for non-commission of the building bylaw, and could potentially lead to the removal or relocation of the structure.
Coun. Alton Toth added, “This bothers me a lot. It really does because ... they were approved for something, they build something else entirely. They're asking for forgiveness on one and they promise to change their ways for the other one when we don't know that that's going to get built the way we approve either.”
Council chose to authorize the development variance permit for the guest cottage, with the added condition that all encroachments to the McCullough Road right-of-way be resolved to the satisfaction of the district. Coun. Dianne McLauchlan was opposed to the motion.
Toth added that he has issues with the file that were not relevant to the meeting’s discussion, but that the cottage accessory dwelling unit is not such an egregious discrepancy from the original plan. “I think it will be interesting to see where this goes as it continues down its path,” he said.
All council members were in favour of denying the development variance permit to reduce the front yard setback from the principal dwelling and its roof overhang.
Staff told council that staff can provide updates as the situation progresses.
The staff report also states once a decision has been made regarding the development variance permit, the district will send a letter to the owner requiring the removal of a utility shed built in a right-of-way and the remediation of extensive unauthorized landscaping work.