Councillor wants City of Kamloops to assert jurisdiction for land-use decisions

Battle brewing with Victoria?

While the province has announced a plan to boost housing density in municipalities across B.C., a Kamloops councillor believes the city is already on the right track — and should be allowed to make its own land-use decisions.

Coun. Nancy Bepple has drafted a motion that, if adopted, would see council send a letter to the minister responsible for housing, asking Victoria to mind its own business when it comes to land-use decisions within City of Kamloops boundaries.

Bepple said her motion is in response to the province’s Homes for People plan, which includes plans to upzone single family lots in municipalities province-wide. She said the plan indicates the province will assign housing targets for up to 20 municipalities per year.

“My concern is the city has already implemented some very progressive land-use policies which actually align with what the province wants," Bepple said.

"But to give up control of land use to the province ignores the need of the city to provide infrastructure to support that development."

She said the Homes for People plan doesn’t include funds for infrastructure.

“We really have to look at the official community plan that we already have, zoning policies that we already have, and stick with that, and go forward with that so we can build a city that has the infrastructure it needs.”

The text of Bepple’s motion lists a number of initiatives the city has undertaken since 2011 to encourage density.

These include allowing carriage suites and garden suites in all urban zoned lands, reducing minimum lot size and width requirements for subdivision in urban areas, and amending the zoning bylaw to allow duplexes on 1,093 parcels that previously wouldn’t have been permitted.

Bepple said there are some areas where secondary suites or garden suites aren’t allowed, as infrastructure has a limited capacity and there is a high price tag for upgrades.

“Barnhartvale would be a really good example,” Bepple said, noting the amount of water infrastructure available to service residences is limited.

“If the provincial Homes for People plan, which allows for duplexes or fourplexes, was implemented across the City of Kamloops, then in Barnhartvale, the City of Kamloops would have a very hard time providing water or sewer within that area of the city. That's a big concern.”

During a Union of B.C. Municipalities housing summit held in early April, many local government officials expressed concerns about the proposed zoning changes, noting stable infrastructure funding is necessary to ensure more density can be supported.

Premier David Eby told summit attendees the $1 billion Growing Communities Fund was earmarked to help municipalities with their infrastructure needs, and teased similar types of funding in the future.

Coun. Stephen Karpuk, who attended the summit, said in April he had some concerns about a “blanket policy” from provincial government, noting council has already been receptive to approving housing projects which increase density in the city.

Bepple said writing a letter to the province voicing the city’s concerns is “a good first step,” noting the District of Coldstream had already sent its own letter.

“We’re not alone with our concerns," she said. "Each municipality will probably have their own views on how it should go, but we just have to speak up in terms of the City of Kamloops."

Bepple's motion will be discussed and put to a vote during a council meeting on May 30.

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