Council had to go against its own policy Tuesday night in order to facilitate the sale of the Willows Pub.
After holding a public hearing for a change to the city’s official community plan, council proceeded to pass third reading and adoption of the amendment.
Council traditionally waits until two weeks has passed following the public hearing before approving bylaw or community plan amendments.
“While it is council’s policy to wait until the next meeting of council before considering third reading, it does have the discretion not to observe its policy should it so choose,” wrote Chris Osborne, city planner, in a report to council.
Council sped up the process in order to accommodate the sale of the Rockland Road pub to Storey Creek Trading, which council was told has a closing date of March 31.
Storey Creek Trading plans to convert the Willows Neighbourhood Pub into office space however, the city’s sustainable official community plan does not support office or commercial use in residential neighbourhoods.
In order to allow the pub to be converted to office space, council Tuesday night approved an addition to the community plan which considers “the adaptive reuse of existing commercial buildings in village centres, neighbourhood centres, and neighbourhood-controlled development areas with uses that do not unreasonably impact adjacent properties, so as to avoid dark buildings in these key locations.”
Coun. Andy Adams thanked staff during Tuesday’s council meeting for making it possible for council to speed up the process.
“I want to recognize staff for finding a way and taking council’s direction to expedite this,” Adams said.
Sue Thulin, co-owner of the Willows Pub, asked council last month to approve the re-zoning as the pub is a time-consuming venture and she’s ready to retire.
Thulin said the pub will be closing March 30 as no one has come forward with an offer to buy the building and continue to run it as a pub.
Council was sympathetic to Thulin and also agreed it would rather see the pub converted to office space rather than have the building sit empty.
But council’s hands were tied unless it made a change to the official community plan.
“Under B.C. provincial statute, once an OCP (official community plan) is adopted, any subsequent bylaw enacted or works undertaken must be consistent with that OCP,” Osborne wrote.
“Council is therefore legally obliged to amend its OCP first if it wishes to enact any bylaw if that new bylaw would be otherwise inconsistent with the OCP.”
While city staff crafted the appropriate change to the community plan to accommodate the Willows Pub sale, Osborne warned council that the change could encumber council on future development proposals.
“It will weaken, to an unknown extent, council’s ability to resist unsuitable use proposals throughout the city in the future, should it wish to do so if/when presented with an inappropriate land use proposal,” Osborne wrote.
Osborne also explained to council why changing the official community plan is not as simple as a re-zoning amendment.
“Amending the OCP to facilitate this application is not a simple matter of changing from one designation to another, as per a typical zoning amendment,” Osborne wrote.
“The reason is that a change in one OCP policy cannot bring that policy into conflict with other policies elsewhere in the OCP without in turn requiring changes to those policies, and so on.”