Leaving the zoning meeting at the Emergency Services building, I felt like I had found myself parked in a spot that was too small.
No matter how I looked at it, there were obstacles on all sides.
But it all depends on how you look at it.
All of these obstacles also point to opportunities, but it depends on an overall vision for the Nakusp waterfront, which is why village council held an information-seeking meeting.
In order to get a feeling of what people wanted to see happen on the waterfront, and therefore if zoning should be changed, residents were encouraged to come and give their input, tell their stories and ask questions.
The ironic thing was, this zoning issue isn’t a new one.
In fact, the situation had been in existence since before 1993, but until recently, no one had realized there was a potential conflict.
What had changed was that one of the insurers had realized there was a snag and had sent out letters to property owners letting them know there was a hitch.
Here’s what the hitch is:
In the LD-1 zone which is the block along the waterfront, single family dwellings (SFD) are currently not one of the allowable uses of the property in this zone.
The local government act, the act that regulates zoning and land use issues, specifies that if a building is more than 75 per cent damaged, like in a fire, it must be rebuilt in accordance with the allowable usage for that zone.
This means no SFD could be rebuilt along the waterfront, and also that insurers wouldn’t pay for replacement costs of the SFD house.
Because, how could they pay for something that can’t legally be built?
What homeowners currently would receive would be a portion of the value of the building rather than its replacement cost.
But this doesn’t change the fact that these so-called “legally non-conforming buildings,” people’s houses, do in fact exist.
Are you still with me? Because that’s just the beginning.
If the property owners want to rezone, they face paying $500 for the rezoning application, as well as other associated costs such as notary fees.
Why, if the houses exist, weren’t single-family dwellings made one of the allowable uses for the waterfront/LD-1 zone?
Back when the usage was being determined for the zone, the vision of Nakusp’s waterfront was to encourage diverse, higher density residential buildings and a mix of different businesses.
These would capitalize on the incredible lakeside location, potentially giving more people access to the view and environment.
Higher density housing, like duplexes or condos, allow more people to live along the waterfront, and businesses like hotels, restaurants and retail stores create more visiting opportunities and more economic opportunities for the town.
At this point in time, with the economy having slowed to a crawl, building up the waterfront may not be a priority, leaving SFD owners along the waterfront in a difficult situation if they want to sell, renovate or insure their home.
The question that the village now faces is what kind of waterfront do we want now as well as in the future? Are SFD a good use of the lakeside properties, or should the vision for Nakusp encourage different waterfront developments?
CAO Linda Tynan gave four options that could address the current quandary. One is that the LD-1 could be amended to include SFD as an allowable usage. Another is that the zoning bylaw could be amended to include SFD on all lots that currently have single-family dwellings on them. Option three was to leave the zoning bylaw as it is and leave rezoning up to individual property owner. The last option was to keep current bylaws in place and review the zoning bylaws and OCP as a whole, rather than amending individual zones without looking at the bigger picture.
Just shy of 30 people attended the meeting held on October 12, most of which were owners of property in the LD-1 zone, and over a dozen spoke to the issue.
Among them was Andy Moffat who gave an impassioned and well-documented presentation in favour of including SFD usage in the LD-1 zone.
One of the issues with allowing lakeside SFD can be access to the water, an issue that has been seen in other municipalities like Kelowna. Here, the Village has protected the waterfront by creating the walkway park right along the shore, and has maintained public lane way access points like the one near the Overwaitea, CAO Linda Tynan pointed out.
This issue has caused real hardship for some. Terry Grusendorf tried to sell her house after losing her job at Interfor and had buyers back out partly because of the zoning and the insurance headache it caused.
Barb Murphy asked if there was any way to set percentages for development, as a way to keep it diverse and dynamic enough to be able to accommodate future possibilities.
Mark Heroux suggested a survey be taken of all LD-1 landowners to see if they feel they would be served by a zoning change.
Susan Patterson made the point that the SFD were already there, so why were they having to rezone, rather than someone who was coming in to develop something else?
Mayor Karen Hamling responded that this was the decision of the Official Community Plan (OCP) in 1993. She echoed the sentiment expressed by many people in the room that times had definitely changed. It was in that spirit that the mayor suggested that the OCP be revisited in the spring of the new year so that it would accurately reflect the needs of the community now.
Further meetings are being scheduled to discuss this issue.