Coldstream councillor candidate John Hegler gets a chuckle out of incumbents Maria Besso

Coldstream councillor candidate John Hegler gets a chuckle out of incumbents Maria Besso

Candidates vocal over controversial bylaw

Coldstream candidates speak out on controversial building permit treatment at Ratepayers Association forum

What was termed the “treating homeowners as developers bylaw,” was one topic every candidate spoke out on at the latest Coldstream forum.

More than 100 residents packed the Coldstream Elementary gymnasium Tuesday for the second in a trio of Coldstream Ratepayers Association forums.

One issue that has stirred controversy for many residents is a single recent case where a building permit sought by a homeowner was met with demands from the district.

The homeowner applied for a building permit to renovate their home and build a three-bay garage with a second floor on the 4.5-acre Kidston Road lot.

With community demands to create a safer bicycle and walking path along the narrow Kidston Road, Coldstream has taken the opportunity to ask the homeowner to sell (for market value) one-fifth of an acre abutting the road so that a pathway can be constructed.

This case has left other homeowners apprehensive that if they apply for building permits, they too will be required to sell some of their land or pitch in for community projects.

“There’s two issues here: one is the authority and the other is the application of the authority and the latter needs to be addressed,” said Coun. Doug Dirk.

Some challengers say the bylaw needs to be scrapped, while the current councillors all agreed that a review is needed but they are not ready to abandon the bylaw.

“If you get rid of the off-sites bylaw you are telling council you want your taxes increased,” said Coun. Richard Enns, whose comment was met with opposition from some in the crowd.

In some circumstances, the betterment of the community has to be considered over a single resident, which is where such requests come into play, said Coun. Gyula Kiss.

“We need to have some tools, if we don’t have this tool we have to expropriate,” said Kiss.

Coun, Pat Cochrane suggests key corridors be identified where Coldstream has plans for projects such as pathways – so homeowners eager to build know in advance whether they might be required to sell land or provide off-site works.

Meanwhile some challengers insist that this practice is unfair.

“It shouldn’t be on the residential homeowners unless they’re doing a development,” said Peter McClean, who is seeking a seat on council.

John Hegler agreed: “I would rescind it.”

If elected, putting development cost charges on homeowners would not be Glen Taylor’s intent, but he says without first seeing the bylaw he cannot agree to rescind it.

Coun. Maria Besso criticized Taylor, who was a councillor at the time when the bylaw was adjusted in 2008 – in part to require homeowners looking to hook up to sewer to pay for off-site works.

Dave Hrabchuk, who is challenging the mayor’s position is also in favour of rescinding the bylaw which he fears is driving business out of Coldstream.

“I don’t know how you can even make this bylaw work.”

Trying to ease community concerns, incumbent mayor Jim Garlick re-iterated that the issue is being worked on and Coldstream is examining what guidelines other communities use in order to make  the process as fair as possible, while still keeping the greater community need in mind.

Outside of this particular topic, Tuesday’s forum also focused on water rates and separation, municipal spending, commercial development, the proposed sports facility and the mechanics shop referendum.

Standing in favour of borrowing $1.3 million to construct a new mechanics shop and upgrade the public works yard were: Cochrane, Enns, Kiss, Garlick and Dirk.

Mixed feelings came from Besso, Taylor and McClean, who all felt that perhaps a location, outside of Coldstream’s  proposed town centre and away from the creek, could be found for the public works yard.

Also calling for a different location, Hrabchuk does not support building a new mechanics shop at this time.

But the end result, as Hegler pointed out, will be up to the residents when they vote yes or no in the borrowing referendum in conjunction with the Nov. 19 election.

There are two all-candidate forums left for Coldstream candidates:

n Monday from 7 to 9:45 p.m. at Okanagan College in the lecture theatre (room D310)

n Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.