The Regional Growth Strategy’s ability to serve as an umbrella document to guide development in the Okanagan portion of the regional district was put to the test at the November 15 board meeting.
Last Thursday’s ruling on the consistency of a proposed 12 residential lot and a winery – vineyard operation near the south end of Vaseux Lake with the Regional Growth Strategy may be precedent setting for further challenges to the highly touted legislation, which the board of directors passed in 2010, after 10 years in the making.
The lengthy board discussion over Thursday’s issue followed closely on the heels of a discussion over the regional growth strategy that took place two weeks ago at a Planning and Development Committee meeting. At that meeting, several directors expressed a desire to have the ability to revisit the document in order to make changes to such things as secondary growth areas. West Bench Director Michael Brydon noted at the time that the RGS had not yet been tested – but that changed at the November 15 meeting.
The development’s applicant argued that the application should be considered as consistent with the RGS strategy because the lands in question had previously been zoned for development, for which a provision for allowing growth had been provided in the RGS.The applicant further argued that the project should be considered as an “in-fill” development, again consistent with provisions within the strategy.
Staff, in their recommendation to the board, argued that the proposal:
– did not occur in a primary or rural (secondary) growth area.
– did not promote compact urban form.
– did not protect the character of the rural area.
– did not appear to be rural “infill.”
– did not connect public infrastructure and would establish a new private sewer service.
Directors were asked Thursday to decidewhether the proposed 12 lot development on Vaseux Lake was consistent with the Regional Growth Strategy. While much discussion wandered off topic to discussion about the legitimacy of the development itself, in the end the majority of directors disagreed with staff’s recommendation that the proposed development did not fit in with the RGS, allowing for the alternative – to deem the development as meeting the intent of the RGS and allow it to proceed throught the regular amendment applcation process. Had the board favoured staff’s recommendation, the applicant would have had other options – to amend his application or apply to the RDOS to make an amendment to the RGS itself.
“I’m not displeased with the result (of the vote),” Area “D” Alternate Director Tom Styffe said. “Although my feeling is that the RGS is an over-arching bylaw that is one step above the Official Community Plan – and it should be adhered to.
Today’s decision could be considered as a proposal that fell through the cracks – staff had it right, however I respect the decision of the board.” Styffe added that the RGS was meant to be a guide for regional district boards for years to come, and it should be taken literally.
The RGS is guided by provincial legislation and was designed to “promote human settlement that is socially, economically and environmentally healthy, making use of public facilities, and services, land and other resources.”
The RGS does not apply to the Similkameen portion of the regional district.