North Saanich Mayor Geoff Orr says the decision to rezone a dock won’t turn North Saanich into Piers Island.
“That [argument] doesn’t persuade me personally, because that is an extreme over-statement of what we are being asked to do tonight,” he said. “There are much different factors at play at Piers Island, including that it is boat-only access to get to Piers Island , never mind the shore profile, which is much shallower, and we don’t know what regulations from a water-lease point of view that they have.”
North Saanich, by contrast, has regulations that the municipality can apply, he said.
He made those comment before council voted 5-2 to adopt a bylaw that rezones portions of the marine foreshore and water surface at 10974-B Madrona Drive to permit the siting and use of a private floating dock linked to an existing shed that is legal but of non-conforming use. The public heard last month that the rezoning to M5 from M6 would regularize the new floating dock and ramp, while the existing pier and boathouse would remain subject to the M-6 zoning.
Critics of the application have argued that approval of the rezoning would set dangerous precedent in calling on council to postpone the issue until the municipality has developed guidelines, a point heard Monday from Coun. Patricia Pearson.
She warned that approval of the application would encourage others to build illegal docks, then ask the municipality for forgiveness in the absence of specific policies.
“We have replaced one illegal dock with another illegal dock regardless of the size,” she said.
North Saanich plans to review shoreline development policies in the future as part of its marine policy planning project review, an extensive project to “assess, evaluate and plan” for the expected effects of rising sea levels and the likely consequences on local shorelines. The public also heard Monday that North Saanich currently lacks specific policies concerning private docks in its Official Community Plan (OCP). This said, it does include some general language and North Saanich has zoning power over the immediate foreshore, points shimmering through Orr’s comments.
“Anyone who has built a newer dock, sort of thinking that they can ask for forgiveness later, I think that is an entirely different situation than one where we have an existing facility that is being brought back into better use and regularized.” He also questioned the argument that North Saanich should wait on applications until it has developed broader policies. Their development takes times and North Saanich cannot wait two or three years before tackling specific cases like this one.
The issue came before council after the municipality had received a bylaw complaint after avid boater Barrie Rogers had purchased the property last year with an eye toward mooring his vessel there.
According to Rogers’ representative, local planner Deane Strongitharm, Rogers replaced a pre-existing, dilapidated dock with a new dock and a ramp to ensure safe access. “It was only after the dock was installed that it came Mr. Rogers’ attention that there was a zoning issue,” Strongitharm said last month.
Rogers subsequently replaced the dock with what he claims was a smaller one that would bring the structure in line with the desired zoning.
This request caused some grumbling among council, with Couns. Murray Weisenberger and Heather Gartshore arguing that Rogers should have been more mindful of the zoning, while nonetheless approving the application. Both Gartshore and Weisenberger acknowledged some misgivings. “It’s challenging when we don’t have policies, and I think that just speaks to the need to address that as we move forward,” said Gartshore.
Pearson and Coun. Celia Stock, however, were less forgiving as they voted against third reading and final approval. Rogers should have been more aware of the zoning, said Pearson.
The issue generated a considerable amount of feedback from residents in the immediate neighbourhood and beyond, with the municipality receiving 27 submissions – 23 in favour of the application and four opposed – with both sides of the argument submitting stacks of evidence. Several councillors commented on the intensity of the dispute, with Gartshore saying that residents have asked council to adjudicate what she called a “cat fight.”
But Monday’s vote did not fully resolve the fate of the dock as the provincial government still must decide whether it will grant the applicant the necessary lease permission, a process that could take years.
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