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Kaslo council roundup: First wildfire development permit issued

All the news from the Jan. 10 council meeting
Kaslo council on Jan. 10 dealt with FireSmart building construction. File photo

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

The first new construction in the village to be planned with wildfire danger in mind has been approved by Kaslo Village council. A couple building a home on Washington Avenue North applied for a wildfire development permit, as part of the new development procedures bylaw.

Chief administrative officer Ian Dunlop said save for some holiday-caused legislative delays, the application went smoothly.

“The applicants had already put thought into making their new home and property fire resistant, and were able to provide photos of the property and building plans that showed what the landscape was like and identified the building materials being used on the exterior of the home,” he told the Valley Voice.

A development permit is the legislative tool that allows council to approve construction projects that need to be built according to certain design considerations – for instance, to keep a project harmonious with other historic buildings in a neighbourhood.

The wildfire development permit is a new initiative to address wildfire danger, and is more an educational tool at this point, rather than a strict set of rules to control development in forested areas. In this case, a report to council says, the builders were asked to consider some design tweaks to reduce the impact that wildfire could have on the property, including building placement, construction materials used, and FireSmart landscaping.

“The couple were not required to complete a FireSmart assessment because that program is not active during the winter months, but the information they provided was sufficient to assess their application and approve their plan,” Dunlop says. “The permit approval was shared with the RDCK building department, so their building permit application could also proceed through that process.”

Council was to receive a final report on the approval at its meeting on the Jan. 24.

Council heard details of the wildfire application as it voted to adopt its revamped Development Procedures Bylaw at the meeting. The revised bylaw updates rules for things like re-submitting problematic applications, public notifications and hearings, reporting to council and allowing staff more discretion to approve plans that conform to the official community plan.

A tan and a paycheque

Councillors vacationing in southern climes won’t be penalized for attending meetings remotely.

Council amended its remuneration policy to allow councillors who are out of town, but attend meetings electronically, to still receive their meeting compensation.

Council also changed the bylaw so councillors could receive employee benefits like dental, health care or insurance coverage. But the change was only to allow the municipal benefits package to be changed to include councillors – it doesn’t make it happen. Staff reported it would cost the village $12,000 annually to include elected officials in the benefits program. That would take a specifically designed council resolution to implement. (UPDATE: that resolution was passed at the Jan. 24 meeting.)

Council training

Council’s two newbie members are going to get some training. Council approved Erika Bird and Matthew Brown attending a Local Government Leadership Academy in Kimberley on March 8 to 10. It will cost about $900 to attend, as well as travel and per diem costs.

Committee mandates

The monthly council session is only the tip of the iceberg of meetings for Kaslo’s elected leaders. Councillors also take part in community committees, as well as special select committees of council that discuss and advise council on ongoing matters.

Council approved a policy to govern the behaviour and powers of councillors sitting on community committees as liaisons: what is expected of individuals fulfilling the role, including limitations on authority, and clarifies the appointment process.

Council also adopted terms of reference for five select committees of council: Art and Heritage, Asset Management, Health Advisory, Liquid Waste Management and Recreation Grant Committees. Staff will advertise for committee members, then arrange opening meetings for the five committees.