Sechelt council has unanimously given third reading to Zoning Bylaw 580, which attempts to modernize regulations overseeing land use in the district — with an amendment.
While giving a summary report following the Sept. 8 public hearing and correspondence, Sechelt’s director of planning and development Andrew Allen said developing a modern zoning bylaw is a “daunting project,” as the current bylaw was adopted in 1987 and much has happened in Sechelt since.
Allen said the staff heard a lot about updating the Official Community Plan at the public hearing held earlier this month, instead of undertaking the land use bylaw upgrade. Despite those comments, Allen said staff continue to believe the best approach is to update the bylaw, and said they used the OCP as a guiding document.
At the Sept. 21 board meeting, he outlined the differences between home offices versus home businesses — with regards to remote work, home offices are different in that home businesses may include making products and having customers or increased traffic — and said residential uses should come first on residential properties. “I think the primary interest really is to preserve that residential character of neighbourhoods,” Allen said. “I think our initial offering was perhaps unintentionally overly restrictive, and we're trying to recognize that difference here.”
As for concerns about specific properties, staff can be directed to look at housekeeping, Allen said.
Concerns about environmental protection were also raised during the public hearing, to which Allen said the zoning bylaw is a key document but not only document for environmental protection, pointing to development permit areas and provincial protections.
“We do believe our development permit areas contained within the official Community Plan supplement the zoning bylaws quite well. We do believe that in many of our areas, the density or the land use allowance in sensitive areas is low. We're not seeking high density, infill development in floodplains and so forth,” Allen said.
Councillor Matt McLean brought up residents’ comments on building heights, and said “In my opinion, there are a lot of conditions placed on RM1 zone [residential multiple zone 1, including apartments, townhouses and two-unit dwellings] … there's a lot of constraints when developing this key form of housing in Sechelt. So thinking about how this zone could really be how we develop a lot of the density in Sechelt. I want to make sure that is adequate to meet the needs of actually building up building character.” He added his concerns about parking.
McLean then suggested an amendment for a density bonusing provision for RM1 that additional height may be considered for apartments on a case-by-case scenario through a development variance permit or amendment to the zoning bylaw, subject to review of OCP policies respecting height and density bonusing. His motion was endorsed by council.
Council has endorsed the future adoption of the bylaw, but statutory approval from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is still required. The Ministry requires third reading to be granted before its approval is given, but a preliminary approval is in place.
Allen said staff will want to monitor what is and is not working and report back to council. “I think if you look at a policy document, like a zoning bylaw, like a building or one of our capital assets, it needs ongoing maintenance. We need to plan for that maintenance,” Allen said. “And I think that's how we need to look at our new bylaws as well.”
Next, Allen identified parking rates for downtown as in need of review, and looking at the transportation master plan and the downtown area planning. He cited Inlet Avenue as good for grant opportunities to improve walkability and travel networks.
Staff proposed adopting Zoning Bylaw 580 in October. The District of Sechelt meets for its last regular council meeting on Oct. 6 before the Oct. 15 general election. The next council term will have its first meeting on Nov. 2.