After hearing from citizens at a June 26 public hearing on a contentious draft bylaw the Village of Pemberton has decided that it will allow site-specific zoning for "Auto Repair Shop" and "Equipment Servicing, Rental and Repair Shop" after all.
In its original form, the draft bylaw would have impacted automotive repair shop Blacks Hot Wheels and ATV sales and repair shop Valley Chainsaw Recreational Ltd. They would have been considered "legal non-conforming," meaning they could operate and even sell the business to another owner, but could lose their "legal non-conforming" status if they were to cease operations for six months or more or if their respective buildings were destroyed beyond 75 per cent of their value.
"We've asked the bylaw reflect the original site specific zoning. That's the essence of the motion," explained Mayor Mike Richman.
Comments from the public hearing will be brought back to council for a full discussion at a forthcoming council meeting, explained Richman, meaning their could be other adjustments to the draft bylaw going forward. "But I think it was felt that there was clear direction on the one issue to move ahead at this point, and we wanted staff to bring back the bylaw to reflect what we want to see in it," he said.
Council heard from around 10 different speakers, many of whom were local business owners.
While some expressed approval of certain elements of the bylaw, all of the speakers were critical of its implications on two beloved Pemberton businesses.
As previously reported, the comprehensive update—which brings in new rules regulating short-term rentals, for example—was also going to remove other business such as car repair facilities and equipment servicing from the list of permitted land uses in the downtown core.
Both Steven Black and his wife Robin Black voiced their opposition to the bylaw, which they felt was designed to drive them out of town while devaluing their property.
"Everyone keeps on saying, 'We're going to be grandfathered and we can go on for as long as we want.' Well if that's the case, then why do it?" said Steven.
Village staff cited the fact that the automotive repair shop sits besides the town's aquifer as part of its rationale for the zoning change. Steven noted this in his remarks at the meeting, then countered by saying that his automotive shops predates it. "The Village states that Vancouver Coastal Health is concerned about the (aquifer)—was there an environmental study done before the (aquifer) was put beside my shop?" he said.
Norm LeBlanc, owner of AC Petroleum
, said that the bylaw was causing fear in the community and asked council to "scrap it and start again."
"I believe that the businesses in the town right now create the vibrant downtown core ... It is the diversified businesses that make it so," he said.
A major theme of the night was that the speakers appreciate having a couple more rural-type businesses in their downtown core.
"We are a dusty little town with a tire shop and a chainsaw. That's our shtick," said Anna Helmer.
"I can't imagine a town existing without the local chainsaw shop and the local (repair shop)," said an enthused Robert Szachury, owner of Turbo Plumbing & Heating.
When asked about the decision, Robin Black said she was grateful for the public's support on the issue.
"We appreciate all the support we have. I'm really glad the council is going to take the public view on this. It affects a lot of people not just us," she said.
Albert Bush of Valley Chainsaw & Recreational Ltd declined comment.
At its June 26 regular meeting, Pemberton council decided to take action on a house that has been out of compliance with building codes for 10 years.
In April 2008, the property, located at 7335 Old Mill Rd., was identified as having buildings without required permits, setting off a series of legal proceedings. The case was brought to court in 2010, with a judge ruling that the buildings must be brought to compliance by June 7, 2011 or the Village could have buildings removed.
The property owner failed to meet the deadline, and the Village ordered a request for proposals for demolition services in November 2011.
At that point, however, council decided to halt the process and asked staff to work with the property owner to try to resolve the issue. According to a staff report, the owner did not address the main issue, that the building is built on concrete lock blocks.
In 2014, staff remarked that the owner of the building was living in the building on the property. On June 12, 2018 the Village's building official conducted another building inspection, which revealed that no changes had been made to the buildings.
In his presentation to council, Tim Harris, manager of operational and developmental services, explained that staff is concerned about the risk of the building being occupied by someone apart from the owner.
"If an incident were to happen, it is possible that the Village would be listed in a lawsuit," noted Harris.
In the end, council voted to support staff's direction to proceed with a demolition order to have the buildings removed, with Councillor James Linklater choosing not to support the motion.
During discussions, Coun. Ted Craddock recalled when the building first came to council and talked about the rationale for the decision.
"I think it's been a real pain in the Village's work program since 2010," said Craddock. "The concern I have is the same I had then. It doesn't meet building code. It's using lock-blocks for foundation, and the roof doesn't meet building code as far as snow load. I think we need to do something about it. If he has visitors there and the roof collapses, we're going to be on the hook."