“Slippery slope” was a term in evidence at Monday night’s meeting, as Councillors hashed out the pros and cons of allowing a two-bedroom apartment in the industrial to continue to exist.
Cranbrook City Council will be looking for public input on a proposed zoning amendment which permits a dwelling unit at a property on Industrial Road 2.
The applicant asked for the amendment to the city’s Light Industrial Zone M2 after an inspection found it did not comply to current bylaws. A vacant room in the property on 800 Industrial Road 2 had been converted into a two bedroom apartment two years ago after the owner couldn’t find anyone to rent it.
Council passed the first two readings after much discussion.
The recommendation by staff was to give first and second reading to the zoning amendment bylaw.
Coun. Ron Popoff said there had been a number of cases like this that have come before council this term.
“Where we’re trying to legalize something that was done contrary to bylaws, OCPs or other rules in town,” Popoff said. “I find this to be a bit of a slippery slope, and may be setting again some further precedents with what’s going on in the industrial park and otherwise.”
Popoff asked if there were any recommendations from the fire department in terms of having more residential accommodations in the industrial part of town.
Coun. Wesly Graham said he echoed some of the concerns that Popoff had.
Graham wondered if this was something that the city was going to begin to allow.
“Are we going to look at opening it up for secondary suites in the industrial park? Do we have a plan for that? Do we want to do it? Where do we go?”
Rob Veg, Senior Community Planner, said that from the fire services perspective, this was initiated as a result of the inspection. One of the recommendations by the chief was to make an application to rezone, but Veg said it is primarily done through building inspections, so the building inspector has outlined what is needed to be done to meet the building code.
“That was a significant concern with this scenario,” Veg said. “I don’t have direct comment from Fire at this point, but from what I understand I think they’re ok with it.”
Veg said that as far as secondary suites go, the current bylaw allows for a security suite in the industrial park. That provision allows for a suite of a limited size.
“But in this case, this is over and above that,” Veg said.
Coun. Tom Shypitka asked whether there was any kind of deterrent to stop people from building first and getting a zoning amendment later.
“It’s ask for forgiveness rather than permission,” Shypitka said. “Then when it happens, we have to do it, because there are people living there or whatever the situation there is.”
CAO Wayne Staudt said it is not permitted.
“That’s why this application is in front of you,” Staudt said, adding Couns. Popoff and Graham were right about it being a potential slippery slope. “We’d be making a concession, whether it’s before the fact or after the fact is also an issue, but once you start down this direction, there could very well be others that could come forth and say we would like to put a suite in.”
Coun. Norma Blissett said she thought of one thing as she read the application.
“We need to protect our industrial land, because we really don’t have a lot of it, and we don’t want to set the precedent for having residential use in the industrial park,” she said. “It’s not that this one apartment is a problem necessarily in itself, but we don’t want to have to provide residential services through the industrial park and we don’t want this to become a trend.”
Coun. Isaac Hockley said he’s had a chance to see the building and understood where the recommendation from city staff was coming from.
“I support it 100 per cent to be honest,” Hockley said. “I’m looking at the letter from our building inspector, it looks like she supports it as well.”
Coun. Graham pointed out that in the recommendation it says staff “reluctantly recommends”. Graham asked what happens in the case they don’t approve it.
Veg said it would result in further enforcement action, which may lead to someone losing their home.
“That’s not somewhere where staff was comfortable going — it’s a tough one more from a moral standpoint than a planning standpoint,” Veg said. He added that the amendment was worded as it is because the life safety issues could be remedied. If they could not have been, it would have been quite different, he said.
Veg said the room makes up a small percentage of the overall building and appeared as a storage room. That was then converted. It is 93 square meters, and Veg noted security rooms are limited to 74 square metres.
Mayor Lee Pratt noted that it is a small suite, so he doesn’t see it being likely that a family would move in there. He also noted that as with a few other cases like this, he didn’t think the person did it thinking about getting approval afterwards.
“I think what happened — and I know from looking through some of our bylaws, and our rules and regulations — you have to be a Philadelphia lawyer to figure them out. If you don’t think about what am I doing here, and go through all that rigamarole first you don’t know it and you start down that path and then you realize, whoa, I didn’t know that, I didn’t know this.”
Pratt said he didn’t think the person tried to intentionally skirt the issue.
Pratt said he didn’t have a problem looking at cases like this individually.
“If it’s blatant that they just tried to circumvent the process, then by all means I would be in favour of saying no,” he said.
The public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. at city council chambers.