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Campbell River city council makes another exception

Council got tied up trying to smooth things over with a building developer for the second meeting in a row Tuesday night.

This time around council found itself making an exception to a city bylaw in order to keep applicant Brett Giese’s four-storey, 47-unit apartment project on the corner of Dogwood and Merecroft, on track.

At the council meeting prior, on July 24, council scratched a clause in Seymour Pacific’s development permit to appease the developer.

In Giese’s case, there was a difference of opinion between the developer and city staff centred around underground power lines and who should be responsible for picking up the tab.

Giese had already been granted a development permit by council last month but when he got to the building permit stage, he was informed by city staff that a bylaw requires he pay for the installation of underground wiring – a project that could cost Giese up to $77,150.

“The Subdivision and Development Servicing Bylaw No. 3419, 2010 outlines various off-site works and services that are required through a subdivision or at a building permit stage,” said Ross Blackwell, city land use manager. “The reason for the bylaw is to achieve the broader community objective whereby the developer, as opposed to the taxpayer, pays for the infrastructure improvements associated with development.”

Money from the developers then goes into a city account set aside for major infrastructure projects. In this case, the city wants to bank funds to move power lines underground in order to expand the Dogwood and Merecroft intersection to allow for dedicated left-turn lanes.

But Giese said that’s a huge financial burden, as he’s expected to put up a 125 per cent bond to the city to ensure the landscaping plans match with the work that’s actually done, plus 100 per cent of the costs to do the actual landscaping.

Giese, who has applied for three other development permits in Campbell River said he has never had to pay for underground wiring before and wonders why now.

“The representation has been made repeatedly that staff is trying to create a level playing field for all developments,” Giese said. “There hasn’t been a level playing field since the bylaw was passed two years ago, and I do not understand how can staff decide that the next development permit that walks through the door will be the one to set an example for all of the others.”

Giese said he’s being treated unfairly and the bylaw has not been applied to other recent projects in the city including the new Tyee Chevrolet showroom, Shar-Kare Mini Storage, Rose Harbour transition shelter on Dogwood, and a new car wash on Ironwood Road.

“I am merely requesting that I be included on the level playing field and treated fairly by having local bylaws applied to me the same as they have been to other developers and land owners,” said Giese, who was left to wonder whether he should move forward with his apartment project at all.

Blackwell said the Shar-Kare developer did not pay for underground wiring because overhead lines were already located on the opposite side of the street. As for Rose Harbour, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the city and BC Housing, which included a commitment by the city to cover site servicing and development costs. With the car wash, a portion of the frontage was dedicated to the city, which brought the development below the thresholds to trigger the bylaw. And in the case of Tyee Chevrolet, Blackwell admitted underground wiring should have been required, but it got missed in the building planning stage, an omission by city staff.

Staff recommended Giese be exempt from paying for underground wiring on the Merecroft portion of his property which cuts in and around Telus’ property which includes a statutory right-of-way and 68.8 metres of combined frontage along Merecroft and Dogwood.

But Giese wanted council to make an exception for his entire property, including the 77.9 metres his proposed building will run along Dogwood Street.

Chris Osbourne, planner for the city, said in a report to council that an argument could be made to not consider the Telus right-of-way on the site and to waive underground wiring costs along that length but warned that relieving Giese from the entire bylaw could be precedent setting.

Council, however, sympathized with Giese.

“I’ve sat on various renditions of various commissions, committees, and task forces and the one thing that has been consistent is fairness, consistency, certainty and that it’s realistic,” Coun. Andy Adams said. “And what I’m seeing here, while I appreciate what staff is doing, I don’t think this is any fault of staff with the interpretation, I think it’s the bylaw itself and while the bylaw was well-intended, I don’t think it really is realistic in certain portions. When you drive down the Dogwood corridor...from 9th Avenue all the way to Robron, there isn’t a single business or developer that has had to do this contribution.”

Council exempted Giese from paying for the underground wiring costs.

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