Skip to content

Sechelt looks at streamlining fire flow permits

Subdivision and development control bylaw amendment proposed to handle variance applications

The District of Sechelt is taking steps to assist developments hindered by fire flow requirements.

In order to reduce the need for council to grant development variance permits, staff proposed a Subdivision and Development Control Bylaw amendment during the March 20 regular council meeting.

The bylaw amendment would mean applications for variances in fire flow requirements would be handled by two staff members: the approving officer and the chief building official. 

Ian Holl, Sechelt development planning manager, said that the district has been dealing with the fire flow issues that the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) had identified through their recent water modelling update, staff have been trying to find a way to help applicants when they have challenges meetings fire flow requirements. 

He said the district only supports reducing the fire flow on developments where the applicant is actively doing something to reduce the required fire flow, for example, using indoor sprinklers and non-combustible building materials.

Holl said that the amendment isn’t meant to allow people to ignore fire flow requirements, but is a short-term option for existing developments.

Coun. Alton Toth asked if the district was preventing any developments from proceeding while they resolved this issue.

Holl confirmed there are active development applications that cannot proceed until the district either has an amended bylaw in place or the developers apply development variance permits.

In a follow-up interview, Holl clarified that there has been no change to fire flow requirements and that the developments currently unable to meet them would still be stuck at this point without this change as well. 

Coun. Dianne McLauchlan said that since water is so critical an issue, she thinks it should come before council, adding that councillors as politicians are much more accountable for district decisions than staff. “This is such a critical water issue and it requires planning and it requires collaboration with the [SCRD], I don't think we should actually follow through with this,” she said.

Sechelt staff met with SCRD staff the same day as the meeting, discussing how this system works with the recent SCRD bylaw amendment and will be meeting with fire chiefs across the Sunshine Coast, said Andrew Allen director of planning and development, highlighting a large amount of work civil engineers undertake with water modelling and data collection.

Coun. Darren Inkster highlighted that Sechelt has a good fire flow rate based on SCRD maps. He added that council needs to keep in mind that West Sechelt’s flow will be impacted over time as more hookups get added and the water system continues to expand. 

Henderson made a motion to direct staff to bring back information on three topics and suggested only giving first reading to allow everyone more time to look at the proposal.

Staff were directed to report back on input from the fire flow industry, comments from the fire department, and a better demonstration of how this ties in with the SCRD.

The motion passed with Councillors Brenda Rowe, McLauchlan and Toth opposed. 

Council then gave the bylaw three readings, with McLauchlan opposed to the first, and Henderson and McLauchlan opposed to the second and third.

The amended bylaw will be presented to council once more for consideration of adoption.

Jordan Copp is the Coast Reporter’s civic and Indigenous affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.