A controversial zoning amendment for five duplexes on Tucelnuit Lake narrowly received approval from Town council last week.
Councillors Dave Mattes and Maureen Doerr supported the application, while Larry Schwartzenberger and Jack Bennest voted against it.
Mayor Ron Hovanes broke the tie by voting in favour of rezoning the property (at 7034 Tucelnuit Drive) to allow the development.
Changing the zoning from residential low density (RS1) to low density duplex (RD1) allows the applicant, Michael Megale, to build 10 living units in five duplexes.
According to Megale, the change in zoning for most of the property does not change the density.
But several residents spoke out against the proposal during a public hearing that saw 42 people at the Elks Hall on October 14.
Tucelnuit Drive resident Jim Wyse submitted a neighbourhood petition against the proposal and stated that approving the rezoning would be in contravention of the Town’s own Official Community Plan (OCP).
Wyse said the maximum density permitted under the RD1 zone (18 units per acre) is considerably higher than the density limit (10 units per acre) set out in the OCP
Later, Wyse said council erred in approving the amendment.
“Council ignored what I would describe as a large turnout from the public who opposed the zoning change . . . those councillors who ignored the feelings of the public just before an election certainly have a lot of courage.”
Resident Albert Hudec said the primary factor in this case is the protection of Tucelnuit Lake, which is home to various species of fish, reptiles and songbirds.
He noted the Town plan imposes a 30-metre building setback from the lake in order to protect riparian values. (But the applicant’s qualified environmental professional report says he can build to within 15 metres of the lakeshore without adverse effects on fish habitat.)
Hudec said council should impose a restrictive covenant prohibiting Megale from developing within the 30-metre riparian protection zone.
The other issue Hudec raised is the unfairness of imposing a duplex development on a predominantly single family area. He pointed out that the OCP imposes a requirement that duplexes be located next to duplexes or near institutional areas. He added that council hasn’t even seen drawings of what the development in question will look like.
Hudec later told the Chronicle that he thinks council’s decision will prompt more people to build closer to the lake.
“It’s a shame not to protect the treasure that we have.”
But local resident Dan Friesen said it’s easy to complain about one’s neighbours.
“We do not always like and agree with what they do on their property. We need to remember it is their property and as long as they follow current regulations we need to live with that.”
Friesen said if people aren’t happy with what is happening on their neighbour’s property, they should either run for council or buy the property and develop it.
According to Friesen, the proposed development is compliant with density limitations outlined in the OCP.
Resident Bob Remple questioned how the proposed development will address pedestrian safety since there is no sidewalk in that area.
Remple said it would be foolish to allow children to walk in this neighbourhood.
“Is the Town going to pay for curbs and sidewalks?”
During the public hearing, Megale confirmed that his proposal does conform to the OCP. He also confirmed there has been no request for a reduction in the 30-metre riparian setback.
Prior to the vote on council, Doerr said they need to rely on the experts; in this case, the qualified environmental professional who conducted the report.
She also reminded the audience in council chambers that this is a zoning change, not a development permit.
In addition, Doerr pointed out that under the current zoning, Megale can put nine single family houses on the property, plus nine suites or “carriage” houses, for a total of 18.
But Megale said he is only proposing 10 units.
Schwartzenberger said he believes the OCP supports the RD1 designation, but found it troubling that the riparian setback would be reduced to 15 metres.
“We could have some houses close to the lake and blocking sight lines.”
Mattes commended Wyse and Hudec for building a compelling case, but said he could not find any reason to deny the application.
“Megale is an honourable man who is trying to do the right thing.”
Bennest questioned why council is introducing another use in the middle of an RS1 (single family) zone.
“To me an owner should have a positive outlook for the property, but I don’t see it. I’m not in favour of upzoning to a duplex.”
Hovanes empathized with existing homeowners on the lake, acknowledging that “change is difficult.”
He noted that condominiums on the waterfront are not ghettos, but look very nice under strata management.
Megale confirmed that he is following the recommendations in the environmental report, including building 15 meters from the shoreline.
He clarified that the 30-metre distance from the shoreline represents the riparian assessment area, not the setback rule.
Anything developed inside the 30 metres requires a professional assessment, Megale pointed out.