A new zoning bylaw for Cortes Island has been put on hold. File photo/Campbell River Mirror

New zoning bylaw for Cortes Island stalls

Strathcona Regional District board votes to have staff review after public raises questions

Area B Director Noba Anderson had hoped to wrap up the new zoning bylaw for Cortes Island before last month’s local government elections.

That didn’t happen though. Following a public hearing for the bylaw in September, the SRD decided at a meeting in October to put the new zoning document on hold for now pending further staff review of it.

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Staff had presented a report outlining the response to the bylaw. Manager of Corporate Services Tom Yates said, “I gather there was some concern about several provisions in the bylaw.”

A staff report contains some of the responses from the public, including concern some currently legal properties would be considered illegal with the new zoning, the lack of insufficient community involvement for the process, excessive penalties, concern it will allow unrestricted aquaculture, that short-term rentals will make property less affordable, that the SRD has too much power to enter a property to look for bylaw infractions and the need for more First Nations input. Along with a number of speakers at the hearing, many sent written responses. The SRD report contains almost 200 pages of submissions from the public.

Yates pointed out that in theory the board could continue with the current version, adding that staff did not recommend this in light of the issues raised. This would leave the board with two choices to amend the current proposed bylaw or defeat it and start a new version.

“Those are really the choices laid out in the report,” Yates said.

Anderson said there was strong turnout at the public hearing on Cortes Island at Manson’s Hall in September.

“Nobody at the public hearing spoke in support of the bylaw in its entirety,” she said. “Many people had particular pieces they had concern with, so there’s no question this needs to go back to the public.”

She was glad the community gave the input that it did, adding she has consulted with planning staff and her rural colleagues to come up with a motion to review the proposed bylaw. Citing public objection to the current bylaw, she moved the bylaw be held at second reading pending a full review by staff to include public consultation and agency referral to bring forward a new draft bylaw for the SRD board’s consideration.

Area D Director Brenda Leigh expressed concerns about the recommendation from staff to defeat the bylaw at the third reading before the electoral directors who attended the hearing had the chance to discuss the issue at the board level. She also questioned messages she said she heard at the hearing that it was not an actual hearing but simply a meeting.

“I feel there was already a kind of sabotage of the process before we even got to hear from the public,” she said. “I feel uncomfortable with that because it’s a quasi-judicial process.”

The board passed the motion to hold the bylaw at second pending the staff review.