Some fear Village Square commercial zone hinders resale prices

Ucluelet’s Village Square Commercial Zone restricts residential uses and some residents with properties within this zone believe resale values are being hindered as a result.

The commercial zone was adopted in 1999 and allowed commercial and mixed commercial/residential uses.

The zone was intended to create a vibrant downtown core consisting of retailers, office spaces, restaurants, tourist accommodation, cultural and community services and multi-family dwellings like apartments, according to a report submitted by Patricia Abdullah. Houses with the principal use of single-family dwellings conflict with both the zoning bylaw and Ucluelet’s Official Community Plan (OCP).

Residents living in the area at the time the new zoning was adopted in 1999 were able to continue their existing use of their property, however, under section 911 of the local government act this right can be discontinued under a variety of circumstances.

A group representing eight residences in the area sent a letter to council in October 2013 requesting the removal of residential restrictions in Ucluelet’s Village Square Commercial Zone (CS-1).

“In all, we the owners of residences in the CS-1 zone are in a precarious position if we ever had to re-build our homes or as we try to sell our homes,” the letter read.

Since receiving this letter district staff has considered possibilities for expanding residential uses while making a minimal impact to the area and during Tuesday night’s meeting council review a report from Abdullah, which laid out four options to consider.

1. Simply receive the report as information.

2. Consider a rezoning application if the residents bring one forward.

3. Initiate a rezoning to allow for single-family dwellings as a principal use in the CS-1 zone for the identified properties.

4. Direct staff to include residential single-family dwellings as a principal use for the identified properties under a new zoning bylaw that has yet to receive its second reading.

Council did not flirt with the idea of opening up its Official Community Plan for amendments and ultimately decided to wait for an official application from the residents before doing anything.

Abdullah clarified that only the properties identified in the report would be affected and none of these options encompassed the whole neighborhood.

Oliwa wondered what the difference was between the second option and the current situation.

“Isn’t that basically what’s already happening by having those property owners come forward,” he asked.

Abdullah responded that the residents’ letter did not count as a formal application and that the district is yet to receive a formal application.

Coun. Dario Corlazzoli noted the district plans to review its OCP in 2015 and suggested council choose option one.

“If we did choose (option one), it doesn’t disallow anyone from coming forward to have an individual rezoning so if one property owner couldn’t wait until we did this review the opportunity is still there for them to come through that process and ask for a rezoning,” he said. “The flow would be a lot better to wait until we actually open the OCP.”

Oliwa asked how much it would cost the district to open its OCP before 2015 and how long an amendment process would take. District CAO Andrew Yeates suggested six months would be more than enough time.

“It certainly wouldn’t be longer than 6 months if we got busy,” Yeates said. “The costs incurred are advertising, signage, any staff research work, and any legal fees that we might run into.”

Corlazzoli

Corlazzoli made a motion to accept option one but found no seconder.

Corlazzoli Coun. Sally Mole moved option two and was seconded by Coun. Randy Oliwa though Oliwa recanted this second later in the discussion.

Coun. Geoff Lyons agreed with Mole’s support of option two.

“Option two gives an opportunity for the individuals to actually come forward and make an application or at least to consider the fact that maybe they’d be better waiting for an OCP review…which could save them a significant amount,” he said.

Corlazzoli expressed confusion over the difference between the first two options.

Mayor Bill Irving said they both meant “technically the same thing” but that “Number two’s just clarifying the process a little bit more.”

After this clarification Oliwa withdrew his second, and Lyons stepped in as seconder.

Council voted to go with option two- consider a rezoning application if the residents bring one forward-with Oliwa the only vote in opposition.

During the meeting’s public question period, Ucluelet local Dave Christensen asked council to clarify the decision they had just made.

Corlazzoli responded that the motion hadn’t changed anything but provided a clearer direction to the zone’s residents.

“In my mind there’s nothing different now then it was before we dealt with this because the opportunity is available to any landowner to rezone as a group or individually,” he said.

Christensen asked how council had “dealt” with the issue by passing a motion that changed nothing and Corlazzoli reiterated the process was now laid out more clearly.

“We’ve accepted the fact that there may be a proposal coming forward but we still need that proposal to come forward,” Corlazzoli said. “We haven’t opened up a new process by doing this.”

reporter@westerlynews.ca