Variances denied for Third Ave. property

An accessory building that has been the subject B.C. Supreme Court ruling cannot be used as a coach house.

Variances denied for Third Ave. property

Lindsay Chung

the chronicle

An accessory building that has been the subject of neighbourhood controversy and a B.C. Supreme Court ruling cannot be used as a coach house.

That’s because Ladysmith council voted unanimously against issuing a Development Variance Permit (DVP) to vary the siting and height of a coach house within an existing accessory building at 410 Third Ave. during the Jan. 19 council meeting, held at the Ladysmith Eagles Hall.

Now that the application has been denied, the accessory building can continue to be used as an accessory building, explained Felicity Adams, the Town’s director of development services. Because the DVP was denied by council, a development permit and building permit for a coach house dwelling could not be considered, she noted.

Currently, a single-unit dwelling and accessory building are located on the property. To permit a coach house in the second storey of the accessory building, applicant Charles Forrest was requesting a variance for the maximum height for a coach house building, and the required distance between the coach house and principal dwelling.

Forrest was given an opportunity to speak about his application during the council meeting, which was held at the Ladysmith Eagles Hall, but he did not.

Although the Eagles Hall was quite full, only four people spoke to the issue.

Aaron Lafontaine, who lives next door to the property, told council that he has lost about $30,000 off his property values since the accessory building was built.

Russell Barling urged council to adhere to its bylaws.

“I would like to see bylaws adhered to in a way that reflects our community spirit that we’re all so proud of in this town, everyone taking care of others,” he said. “If you allow this, where do you stop?”

Former councillor Glenda Patterson said there has been “possibly a lack of communication” along the way.

“I think it has been bounced along for a long time,” she said. “Speaking on this, I would personally like to say it’s very unfortunate this gentleman has been through hell, not allowed to live in a residence he built … I’m asking for consideration that this follows through to help this gentleman.”

Bill Drsydale, who sat on the previous council, said he has read accusations about himself on the Internet, which question his credibility, and it bothers him that council’s integrity has been brought into question.

He asked council to remember the Town’s community visioning statement while making its decision and remember that 66 per cent of people were in favour of coach houses when surveyed.

“In what way is this different than legalizing in-house suites, which the previous council did do?” he asked.

Coun. Rob Hutchins is the one who made the motion that council deny the DVP.

“This is a human issue,” he said. “Individuals are impacted by our decision here tonight. However, we went through a very lengthy, comprehensive public consultation process on establishing both secondary suites in our community, as well as coach houses.”

He said he didn’t believe that with the guidelines established around respecting the privacy and views of neighbouring properties and fitting in with the neighbourhood, this building would not be constructed as a coach house today.

Coun. Duck Paterson seconded the motion.

“This building is too big,” he said. “We have gone through a process to establish this type of living in our community, and to move immediately to such a big increase does not fit what our community and the previous council wants. This application does not fit the design of this community.”

Coun. Joe Friesenhan agreed with Hutchins and Paterson.

“My big concern is if we approve something like this at this stage, we will be hit by everybody who wants to build and ask forgiveness later,” he said.

Coun. Carol Henderson also spoke about denying the application.

“Although I think the coach house would look lovely somewhere else, I don’t think it looks good here,” she said. “Over-height is a big one.”

Mayor Aaron Stone felt that approving this DVP would be an “extreme example” of a variance.

“It seems in this case, we have a coach house dwelling that does not fit the spirit of bylaw, which so much work has been put into,” he said.

The current siting, size and height of the accessory building on Forrest’s property conformed to the zoning bylaw at the time it was built, according to Adams, but it does not conform to the

Town’s updated zoning bylaw, which was adopted in August. The finished floor area of the accessory building is 84 square metres, and the applicant has proposed to remodel the second storey so the coach house dwelling would be 60 square metres to comply with the zoning bylaw. A building permit would be required for the renovation, and the remaining 24 square metres would form part of the accessory building.

The proposed coach house would meet the requirements of the zoning bylaw, except for two variance requests — it is four metres from the principal dwelling, and six metres is required, so a variance of two metres was requested.

As well, the building is 7.43 metres in height, and the maximum permitted height for coach house buildings is 6.6 metres, so a variance of 0.83 metres was requested.

When she wrote her report to council, Adams explained that the Town had received 24 written submissions regarding the proposed variance. Six letters were from residents within the 60-metre circulation area for statutory notice, and four of those expressed opposition to the proposed variances, while two expressed support. Submissions from outside the circulation area expressed opposition to the variances.

In October 2012, the Supreme Court of B.C. declared that Forrest had, through his use and occupancy of the land, contravened the Urban Residential Zone provisions of the Town’s zoning bylaw by using and permitting the use of the occupancy of the suite above the garage for living accommodation.

The Supreme Court of B.C. stated that Forrest had contravened the Town’s building and plumbing bylaw by permitting or causing the installation of a kitchen and cooking facilities in the garage without first obtaining a permit, and by occupying or permitting the use and occupancy of the garage without obtaining an occupancy permit.

The court ordered that Forrest must cease occupying or permitting the use and occupancy of the garage for living accommodation or as a dwelling unit and that Forrest shall not occupy the garage or permit the use and occupancy of the garage for living accommodation or as a dwelling unit until he had obtained all necessary building permits, brought the garage into compliance with the building bylaw and restored the garage to its lawful use under the zoning bylaw.