This Tuesday, council will consider a proposal to reduce slightly, the number of public hearings that council considers.
Instead, certain 'minor' decision-making would be delegated to District staff.
Specifically, on March 21, council's agenda includes: "that council direct staff to prepare Land Development Procedures Bylaw amendments to change the default requirement to hold public hearings for Zoning Bylaw amendments, and to delegate decisions for minor Development Variance Permits to staff based on the feedback received at the March 14, 2023 committee of the whole meeting."
There are several steps before this would become policy, including the usual readings at council.
At Tuesday's meeting, council will consider whether to direct staff to create the bylaw amendment that would then be re-presented, likely in May or June, staff said, for council to then begin the approval process.
This proposal is coming before council in the wake of the provincial government passing Bill 26, in late 2021.
The aim of that bill is to simplify and accelerate development approvals processes in municipalities to get more housing built faster to meet increasing demand in the province.
This legislation paves the way for the changes proposed by District staff.
In our region, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has already implemented similar changes.
Council members were presented and weighed in on a draft of the proposal at the March 14 committee of the whole meeting.
What was proposed so far?
A public hearing would no longer be automatically held for zoning bylaw amendments which are considered minor and in line with OCP policy. Notice of the amendment would be given to the community before its first reading.
This would include:
• Residential and mixed-use applications where the residential units do not exceed 20
units and non-residential space does not exceed 300 or 400 square metres of floor area;
• Non-residential applications where the floor area does not exceed 300 or 400 square metres.
• Non-residential applications within the Sea to Sky Business Park.
• Applications within the Oceanfront development or areas where a recent Neighbourhood Plan has been adopted or amended within the last 10 years.
• Applications for 100% market rental or affordable housing projects.
Staff said of the 17 such applications over the past two years, six would meet the proposed criteria, and thus would not have required a public hearing.
Under the draft proposal, where a public hearing is not held, the public would continue to have the opportunity to provide comments through regular channels such as the Development Showcase, public information meetings and letters to council. Notice woul
Where recommended by council, a public hearing can still be held when there is considerable interest in an application.
The level of community interest will be determined by council on a case-by-case basis at the time of second reading, according to the staff report.
Director of planning Jonas Velaniskis said that in cases, such as with Garibaldi Estates, where there is a lot of public interest, that is a case where the usual public hearing process would continue as usual.
Variances are requests not to conform to certain aspects of a bylaw.
Common development variances include for setbacks, the height of a building and the amount of parking.
At the March 14 meeting, staff proposed this criteria for variances that would be delegated:
•Design criteria for off-street parking or loading spaces.
•Provision of off-street parking spaces for buildings or uses, provided that the number of required spaces is not reduced by more than 10% and any cash-in-lieu options are utilized.
•Regulations for the siting or height of solid waste separation and storage facilities, outdoor covered structures and greenhouses.
•Site coverage regulations, provided that maximum site coverage is not increased by more than 25%. Site coverage refers to the amount of a lot or parcel of land a development takes up.
• Building setback regulations, provided that a required setback is not reduced by more than 25%. A setback is the distance the exterior of a building can be from an adjacent property line.
•Projections into required setback, with conditions. A projection is a feature of a building that extends outside it.
• Building height regulations, provided that permitted height is not increased by more than 10%.
More detailed criteria for staff to use when making decisions would need to be developed in the future.
The streamlined processes will save time and energy, in short.
"When a public hearing is not held, there are considerable council time savings for attendance, and preparation and staff time [for] … presentation, organization, notification and agendas. It also gives the opportunity, where appropriate, to give a proposed amendment three bylaw readings at one meeting. The result is a streamlined process and time savings for the applicant," reads the staff report.
Tweaking the Development Variance Permit process would also mean application cost savings and approximately two months of time savings for the applicant.
According to staff, over the last two years, there was an average of 13 applications per year. Based on the proposed criteria, about 40% of applications would be eligible for delegation.
All of council spoke and voted in favour of moving to the next step in the approval process, with some suggestions for tweaks to the proposal and requests for further information to be included in the next presentation, such as a breakdown of how many of the 40% of those past applications council agreed with the staff recommendation and how many they voted opposite of what staff suggested.
Several on council said that under the current process, the public hearing seems late in the game for folks to be weighing in, and more feedback earlier on in the public hearing process would be more effective.
District staff will be bringing another report to council forward in the future, likely accompanying a bylaw amendment, based on the presentation and discussion at the March 14 Committee of the Whole.
The meeting March 21 starts at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at Municipal Hall and can be viewed online in real-time on the District’s website.
To view the March 14 meeting, go to the District's Youtube channel.
**Correction: This story has been corrected since it was first posted to clarify that on March 21, staff is not re-presenting an updated proposal for consideration. Instead, elected officials are considering the recommendation from March 14.