City defends hillside rules

Developer's attempts to ease hillside rules run into opposition

Calls to ease Vernon’s hillside development rules are running into steep opposition.

City of Vernon staff are asking council to deny a proposal from developer Jed Astin to review current policies so construction can take place on slopes greater than 30 per cent.

“The guidelines are flexible but we can’t compromise the overall intent of the guidelines,” said Cleo Corbett, long range planner.

“Existing lots with lands over 30 per cent are not sterilized. We work with landowners to ensure fair development opportunities on those lands.”

Hillside guidelines were adopted in 2009.

“In drafting of those guidelines, there were no exclusions specifically exempting existing homes in Vernon’s established neighbourhoods nor were existing commercial, industrial or institutional properties exempted from the guidelines,” said Astin in a submission to the city.

“This would include properties in East Hill, Mission Hill, Bella Vista, Middleton Mountain and many other long established neighbourhoods.”

Astin says homeowners impacted by the guidelines may not be able to build an addition on to their home or construct a workshop or pool.

“A reduced lot size often means a reduced value for the home or property,” he said.

“By applying the hillside guidelines to larger parcels of sloped bare land intended for development, that property might be rendered sterile.”

Astin is asking council to consider variances on a case-by-case basis.

“There is nothing lost in such a decision, only potential for positive community benefit in dealing with unanticipated negative impacts on some of Vernon’s property owners,” he said.

Corbett says there are a number of reasons for the guidelines, including safety, financial feasibility for both the developer and public infrastructure, esthetics and viewscapes.

“Even from far away, hillside development can have a visual impact,” she said.

“We’re trying to have development nestled into a hillside and not intruding.”

Other issues the city considers are slope stability and drainage, and the design of retaining walls.

Corbett also says there isn’t a need to develop hillsides because the number of total developable units currently available in Vernon is 6,106.

“Vernon has supported growth up to 90,000 people,” she said.

Council has deferred a decision on the matter so Astin can make a presentation May 14.

 

“That also allows us to get a legal opinion on some issues,” said Mayor Rob Sawatzky.