Resident worries official plan may increase taxation

  • May. 28, 2010 8:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay–A Queen Charlotte resident whose property is slated to be designated “industrial” in the Official Community Plan is worried this will cause his taxes to rise. Mr. Gary Wunsch attended the technical review meeting for the Official Community Plan at the Queen Charlotte council office on May 27 and raised this concern. He lives on the Honna Road and has business-related improvements along with a house on his property. Members of the volunteer Advisory Planning Commission and members of council, as well as QC staff and other members of the public attended the meeting to hear Vancouver-based consultant Michael Rosen go over the draft OCP document, three years in the making. The document is intended to set out broad policy directions that lead to more detailed and site-specific zoning and subdivision bylaws and other policy instruments. The OCP’s goal is to ensure development is appropriate and meets the public expectations for today. The town is now governed by an OCP that first came about in 1993 and was revised again in 2002. Councillor Leslie Johnson said she originally shared Mr. Wunsch’s concern about making land use designations in an OCP but found out that BC Assessment makes their own decisions on the classification of people’s properties. These assessments are made according to how the property is used, not what the land is designated for under the OCP. “It’s not an illegitimate concern,” said chair of the APC Clyde Greenough, adding that Mr. Wunsch is not the only one who may think the OPC will have an impact on their property taxes. Mr. Greenough says people are also concerned the OCP may stop them from doing what they are doing on their property. “The OCP doesn’t stop anyone from doing anything,” he said. “It’s zoning that does that.” Mr. Rosen did point out that the draft, while very well done, did extend beyond the necessary scope. Many of the policies and objectives and varieties of land use designations should be included in zoning bylaws, rather than a broad policy document like the OCP, he said. Mr. Rosen recommended cutting the list of land use designations from 22 to nine, so for example rather than having commercial land separated into four categories – general, marine, tourist and service – just have one commercial category and deal with the different policy suggestions in the zoning bylaw. It’s not wrong to have so many policy directions in an OCP, he said, but in some other communities they would have been struck out. He also noted that with too many specific designations, a community faces the possibility that they may have to amend their OCP every time someone comes in with a proposal that doesn’t fit the category. It’s a balance between expressing the flavour of the community, he said, and being open to ideas not yet thought of. “It’s a small community where you want to be as unique as you can be,” he acknowledged. Mr. Rosen also suggested the community does not need development permits at this time, but other tools can be used to ensure concerns around geotechnical and environmentally sensitive areas are addressed. Mr. Wunsch also raised a concern that this OCP is too much document for a town with a decreasing population (from 1045 to 948 between 2001 and 2006). He perceives that the document is set to allow council to build sea walks, bicycle paths and more. But Mayor Carol Kulesha said the document only reserves areas for purposes, so they can’t be developed into something else, like a strip mall. “It is a land use planning document, not a spending document,” she said. In an interview with the Observer, Mayor Kulesha also said she hopes this draft document will encourage people to talk about the issues raised more and get more informed. “This is a vision of how we can develop,” she said. From here the document will be revised with the help of Mr. Rosen and brought back to the APC and council over the summer. The mayor intends to have it ready for public meetings and hearings in the early fall. The village has spent approximately $5,000 on Mr. Rosen’s services and will agree to a further fee at the next council meeting. For his part, Mr. Wunsch wasn’t satisfied with any of the answers to his concerns. He told those in attendance that the reason people don’t participate in QC Council meetings isn’t because they agree with what council is doing, “it is because they don’t want anything to change.” He suggested that this is a development plan “for people who want to cut up the pie.”