Councillor Rick Kasper

Downzoning affects property rights

Changes to the Sooke Zoning Bylaw means property categories and uses are altered.

nt properties has left some residents of Sooke questioning the reasons. It has also opened up more inquiries as to the rationale of changing other zonings without  informing  property owners.

At the heart of the matter is the growing opposition to an application to amend the purpose and definition of the W2 zone.

A public hearing for a bylaw amendment to Bylaw No. 500 Sooke Zoning Bylaw, 2011 was held to add “group moorage” into the purpose of the W2 zone and allow group moorage as a principle use and define group moorage.

The proposal is to define group moorage as a multi-berth moorage similar to a private moorage facility but for the personal use of a group or association of residents from the surrounding community.

At the public hearing a number of people came forward to speak of their opposition to the change. Some were residents on neighbouring properties, citing potential parking, noise and dust problems. Another felt, in a written submission to council, that this could cause any number of properties zoned W2 to expand their moorage to the maximum and create more group moorages.

A petition with 31 signatures opposed to group moorage was presented to council along with a couple of written submissions.

One resident said, “Council does not have the right to take away our peaceful existence… or drive down property values.”

Realtor Bruce McMillan stated this was a “gross invasion of privacy.”

Salty Towers’ owner Neil Flynn, whose property is next to the controversial property seeking a W2 zoning and group moorage, said this proposed bylaw would affect all private docks.

“If changes are made, any private dock could pursue group moorage,” said Flynn. “If an illegal situation occurs for a long time does that make it legal?”  he questioned.

District planner Gerard LeBlanc said the changes were made because they did not want to create non-conforming zoning and they picked a zoning which would apply to the property based on (foreshore) lease. In regard to the specific property at 1573 Dufour, LeBlanc said the property had private moorage and more than private moorage was happening there. W3 zoning does not apply to upland use, and is a “commercial” ie: marina designation.

Mayor Wendal Milne asked how many W2 zones would be affected and said he could not support the amendment.

In the information package presented at the public hearing, it stated that six properties would be affected by the bylaw amendment, others felt there were many more.

When the latest Sooke Zoning Bylaw 500 was enacted there were many properties which were down-zoned to comply with various land use categories. Property owners were not informed personally but rather through an all encompassing advertisement in the Sooke News Mirror, said Councillor Rick Kasper.

He said this makes it necessary for the property owners whose zoning has changed to apply and pay for a rezoning to bring their properties back to the original land use designation and resulting applicable uses.

He also said that there were hundreds of properties in seven categories that had their properties down-zoned. Most, if not all, of those properties were outside the sewer specified area.

Kasper thinks this is some sort of “money grab.”

“Property rights have been stolen,” he said, adding that the changes have serious impact on property owners and the original zoning should be reinstated. He questioned what the reasoning was in changing the zoning and to whose benefit it was done.

The item was tabled at the council meeting.