As the current owners of 2602-25 Ave., Vernon (East Hill), we have to express our disappointment in the recent decision of city council to deny our rezoning application from R2 Large Lot Residential to R5 Four Plex Housing Residential.
We attended all the open Official Community Plan (OCP) meetings and displays put on by the city to encourage input from all the residents of Vernon. It is my understanding that the Third Option (Neighbourhood Centres) was overwhelmingly chosen by the citizens of Vernon who provided feedback during the public consultation process. One of the guiding principles of the Official Community Plan adopted in 2008 is to “Revitalize the Downtown.”
One of the many suggestion we heard at the open houses and what appears to have been implemented was to increase the allowable density of the areas surrounding downtown, including East Hill, to provide the opportunity to build multi-family and mixed-use developments and that the proximity of these future developments to downtown would encourage people to leave their vehicles at home and walk or bike to work and to the many services provided by the downtown core.
These meetings were well attended and after much discussion and expense to the city taxpayers the OCP was voted on and adopted by our city council. The public consultation process was intended to ensure four things: inclusivity, equitability, readability and accessibility. The ICP itself defines equitability as, “every group and resident is treated equitably and fairly with no extra weight or strength is given to one group over another — everyone’s views and opinions are valid.”
Our application for rezoning had the support of the City of Vernon planning and engineering staff and we felt it also met all of the criteria for sustainable development as outlined by OCP’s Development Strategy. Some of the immediate neighbours had concerns about how the development would look and how it would fit into the neighbourhood.
We have the same concerns as well as it has always been our intent to live in one of the units. The public consultation was being done for a rezoning application which is for land use and density, not for the character of the proposed development or what type of housing (multi-family) was being considered. Any concerns as to the form and character of the development could have been easily addressed by registering a covenant on the property requiring the design and structure of the buildings to conform to the design and character of the neighbourhood. This was actually suggested to the councillors of the City of Vernon planning staff in their report to council after the consultation process was complete.
I would caution any landowners in the areas surrounding the downtown core to be very careful if applying for rezoning to increase density or change the land use. Even if your application and conceptual design has the support of planning and engineering staff and appears to meet the intent of the OCP, our current city council could deny the rezoning based on pressure from immediate neighbours, who do not represent the public interest or the opinion of the entire population of Vernon.
Clearly, equitability has not been assured in the OCP process since a small and vocal group can sway our city councillors. When we reapply for the rezoning of our property in six months and a new city council is in place after elections, it is our hope that the new council will take into consideration what all the citizens of Vernon want, not just 40 East Hill residents.
Bob and Millie Beckley