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Kaslo council roundup: Council sets ‘bylaw-defeating precedent’ approving development proposal

All the news from the Oct. 11 council meeting
Kaslo Village Hall. File photo

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

A Kaslo couple has been given permission to enlarge their house and carport on their property, even though their plans go against building guidelines for their neighbourhood.

Michael and Sandra Jones had their Development Variance Permit approved to make the changes to their small home at 302 3rd Street at the Oct. 11 meeting of council.

“We are full‐time residents and good custodians of this highly visible location and we take pride in the look of both our house and our property,” the couple wrote to council. “To this end, we seek to renovate our property in a way that allows us to age in place but also maintains the aesthetic that we feel is important to this location.”

Among the changes the Joneses want to make are a living room addition, new bedroom, larger bathroom, wrap-around deck, and enlarging the carport.

“The motive for our property improvement proposal is to prepare our home for senior living,” they add. “Authorizing the above variance would allow us to make improvements, which would make our home safer and more liveable now and into the future.”

The increased size would see the building setbacks from the property lines reduced – by about one metre in the case of one side of the property, and down to zero metres from the front property line for the new carport. The amount of land covered by the house and carport would go up from 40 per cent to 61 per cent as a result – another rule-breaker.

The couple argued that the house was built in the 1960s before the current regulations were put in place, creating a unique situation and set of needs.

Staff recommended approving the house setback changes, but balked at the garage plans.

“Conforming to the setback requirements would also result in a very small building size, so it is certainly reasonable to grant relief to the setbacks to allow for a sensibly sized house to be constructed on this small lot,” a report to council indicates. However, staff said a new carport has to follow the existing development guidelines. And they warn of potential legal headaches should the application for a setback of zero metres from the property line be approved.

“That the existing carport has been there for over 50 years, there is no room at the side of the house for a carport, and that the applicant has attempted to justify their request based on hardship is recognized,” the report says. “But there is a risk of setting a bylaw-defeating precedent if approved.”

Chief administrative officer Ian Dunlop’s report also noted that permitting a front setback of zero metres would also apply to the entire front of the property forever, “meaning that the house or carport could be further expanded into the front yard in future.”

“Once the variance is granted to reduce the setback, then that then applies to any future development,” he continued. “The notice on title stays with the property … the property could be re-developed in the future with that zero setback.”

“We have absolutely no intention of doing that,” said Michael Jones, saying he was “blindsided” by the issue that their request would set a precedent. “And if there’s any mechanism we could impose upon ourselves that would give council greater confidence with us moving forward, we would do whatever that took.”

Despite the warning from staff, councillors, most of whom faced re-election in four days, unanimously approved the Jones’ application with no restrictions.

“I know this is about setting precedents, but I think future councils should have enough control over that to say, ‘Hey, this is a special case right here, tough luck.’” said Councillor Kellie Knoll, who didn’t run for re-election.

Planning active transport

Council gave staff the go-ahead to apply for funding for a plan to expand and improve the Village’s networks of trails, paths, and opportunities for human-powered mobility.

The Village does not have an Active Transportation Network Plan (ATNP), but having one can make the community eligible for big improvement projects that would improve the quality of life for the whole community.

“The ATNP will identify the infrastructure that Kaslo residents require for safer walking, cycling and use of mobility devices and strategies to encourage human-powered transportation in the community,” says a staff report. “Projects that address gaps identified in the ATNP will be eligible for infrastructure funding in future intakes of the program.”

But first the Village has to have a formal plan, which is what the $30,000 planning study will provide. The Village would hire a consultant who would conduct community consultation and prepare shovel-ready plans to apply for funding.

“Kaslo already has an extensive network of trails that can be integrated into the street and sidewalk network,” says the report from staff, but notes that there are also gaps in that sidewalk network and trail system, that the public bus stops don’t have proper curbs, sidewalks or bike parking, and that accessibility issues are common in many areas of the village.

Village staff will consult with local user groups and council to identify and inventory the existing infrastructure, while surveys and traffic counting will help identify areas for improvement. From there, projects will be developed for grants.

“By securing grant funds for the creation of an ATNP, the Village will reduce the impact on taxpayers,” the report says.

Completing an Active Transport Plan would make the Village eligible for grants covering 70 per cent of costs for eligible projects up to maximum of $500,000. The Village’s portion of future funding could come from the transportation reserve or COVID surplus funds, the report says.

Council asked for more budget details, but approved applying for up to $30,000 for the project.

Fall rec grants

Seven community groups will receive $500 each to promote well-being and recreation in Kaslo.

The fall community recreation grants were approved at the council meeting, and include such projects as new signage for the Disc Golf club, training equipment for Kaslo Baseball, craft materials for seniors and the youth council, and a tennis ball collector and extra pickleballs (“Which are always needed,” says the Kaslo Racquet Club’s application).