The Ladysmith Town council meeting on January 19 was the first indication of the thinking and direction that our new Council is heading. The agenda for the night contained a couple of controversial issues, and as a result a larger than normal audience was in attendance which required a change of location from City Hall to the Eagles Hall.
The most controversial issue of the night was the proposal for a Development Variance Application for a building at 410 Third Avenue to allow it to become a legal coach house. This building that has been the centre of a political storm since its original construction in 2009 with the issue of occupancy going all the way to the Provincial Supreme Court.
People in the immediate neighbourhood were strongly opposed to the granting of a variance and the Town received dozens of letters regarding the variance as well as people speaking in support and opposition at the meeting. Council unanimously voted to reject the application for the variance.
In my opinion all parties lost. The residents have still lost their view because it meets the bylaw for an auxiliary building. For the property owner it’s a loss because it cannot be used as a residence.
Council’s position, as I read it, is that you cannot build a non-conforming building in the hopes that you can get a variance later to allow it to be used for different use. This is a strong statement to those who want to push the limits by building first and asking for forgiveness later. Some on Council feared that granting this variance would set a precedence especially so soon after the passing of a new coach house zoning bylaw.
The Jan 19 meeting covered a range of topics. Council unanimously approved a request for a Riparian Development Permit that will be the first step towards the creation of a 529 housing unit subdivision on the west side of Holland Creek. If approved, this will “permit the subdivision of land and road dedication” on three subject properties to facilitate the creation of one 57 hectare parcel.” The development is led by the Coast Salish Development Corporation working for the Stz’uminus First Nations. This parcel of land is presently zoned F-1 and is operating as a SFN woodlot. According to an article in the Nanaimo Daily News, Stz’uminus First Nations also recently signed a memorandum of understanding with RCR Mining with plans of starting development on a copper, zinc and ore mine in the next five years. The mine would sit on a site in Stz’uminus’s territory.
Another topic covered was water.
The Cowichan Valley Regional District Regional Water Management and Governance presentation highlighted concerns and plans for more sustainable water uses. And addressing local use, John Manson, Director of Infrastructure presented a 2015 Water Conservation Plan that recommends that Ladysmith sets a conservation target 20 per cent lower than the Canadian average for a metered single family dwelling and that staff investigate the potential to raise residential water rates.
Last year when the town was considering a boundary expansion a detailed report was released on the long term availability of water. What I understood from that was that the supply of water was adequate, but we are presently unable to store water to meet our future needs during the high demand months, and that we will need to raise the dam.
Yet despite these concerns we are looking at supplying more water to developments such as the Stz’uminus First Nations projects that also include the Oyster Bay commercial and residential development that includes a hotel.
The new Council handled their first controversial meeting well. They had hard decisions to make and handled them well, even if I don’t personally agree with all of them. Mayor Aaron Stone did a good job keeping the meeting on track, yet allowing a degree of latitude to some of the speakers. As long as things are kept transparent, I have high hopes for this Council. At least that’s as I see it.