Town will advertise for three Board of Variance members

The Board of Variance receives applications for minor variances.

Ladysmith council took the next steps toward resurrecting the Town’s Board of Variance during the Jan. 19 council meeting.

At the meeting, council directed staff to advertise for three individuals to serve on the Town of Ladysmith Board of Variance.

Criteria considered for potential appointees will include: public or private-sector experience in the delivery of public programs and services; practical experience in research, analysis, land use planning, architecture, landscape architecture, building design and construction, engineering, law or local governance; being a resident and respected member of the community; being a member of a community organization; and being a  business owner.

The Board of Variance receives applications for minor variances. It is one of two routes a property owner can take, as they can apply for a Development Variance Permit through council or apply to the Board of Variance. The Board of Variance’s decisions are final and cannot be appealed. Ladysmith’s Board of Variance has not met since the late 1990s or early 2000s.

During the Jan. 19 meeting, council proceeded with the first three readings of the Town of Ladysmith’s Board of Variance Bylaw and also directed staff to include $5,000 in the 2015-2019 financial plan to cover costs associated with the Board of Variance. As well, council directed staff to arrange for the development of Board of Variance Guidelines to outline the board’s role, mandate and responsibilities.

Council first considered updating the Town’s Board of Variance Bylaw Jan. 5 but referred the issue to a future meeting because it wanted more information around definitions and wording that could be included in the bylaw. At that time, council and staff also spoke about the possibility of developing a set of guidelines for the board.

In her report to council on Jan. 19, Sandy Bowden, the Town’s director of corporate services, explained that although there are many examples of Board of Variance guidelines available, it is not advisable to simply copy another municipality’s guidelines. Staff recommends that a consultant be engaged to develop the guidelines and also recommends pursuing training for board members and appropriate staff.

The guidelines that will be established will address some of the concerns raised by council on Jan. 5.

Council had asked if the Town could develop a definition for “minor variance” and “undue hardship,” and staff has discussed this with the Town’s solicitor, who advises that this cannot be done.

“The Board must consider each application on its own merits,” Bowden wrote in her report for the Jan. 19 meeting. “What is minor in one circumstance may not be considered minor in another.”

Staff also recommended amending the bylaw to state that proceedings of the Board of Variance are open to the public and that the notification area for Board of Variance hearings be expanded to within 60 metres of the subject property, which is the same as the notification area for Development Variance Permit applications.