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Sicamous council votes unanimously in favour of rezoning rail trail properties

Rail trail gets the go ahead

The District of Sicamous council voted unanimously to approve zoning bylaw changes which will pave the way for a rail trail after a well-attended public hearing Wednesday evening.

The district held a public hearing for the reconsideration of zoning bylaw amendment 1044 after it was initially defeated at a council meeting on Feb. 14.

About 150 people came out to attend the public hearing at the Sicamous and District Senior's Centre, with more watching online via Zoom. All the chairs available were full, and more people stood around the edges of the room for the duration of the hearing.

Four councillors had voted in opposition to the proposed bylaw amendment at the Feb. 14 meeting, however, all of them said they were ready to vote in favour of the rail trail zoning at Wednesday's public hearing.

Coun. Ian Baillie said council had received more information about the project, and he was happy to vote in favour of the amendment with the new information.

“I was one of the four that voted against it and I would do it again, based on the information that I had at the time,” Baillie said.

“We’ve had multiple meetings with the CSRD [Columbia Shuswap Regional District] and the rail trail owners, Splatsin, and MOTI [B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure] and a lot of these important players, where there were question marks around the information that we were getting.”

Questions remain around zoning type

Some council members said the type of zoning used for the rail trail site, P3 park general, might not be the best choice — and further amendments could lead to more public hearings in the future.

Coun. Gord Bushell said even though he planned to vote in favour of the proposed bylaw amendment, he was not sure P3 was the correct zoning.

“We can still adjust it or we can still change it to a transportation corridor,” Bushell said. “All along, it's been called the transportation corridor, so we still have time to change that whenever we do. Tonight, we have to get the rail trail moving.”

Should council decide to amend zoning going forward, it would require another public hearing.

Mayor Colleen Anderson thanked everyone for coming, and also thanked councillors who previously voted against the rail trail.

“Respectfully, you guys had a lot of questions and you got a lot of questions answered. So thank you guys very much as well," Anderson.

She also tried to ease the fears of the dock owners.

“The zoning doesn't affect your docks,” she said. “W1 [zoning], which is docks, are allowed in the channel in Sicamous. As long as you have upland owner consent, you can have a dock in the channel.

"That's just the zoning in Sicamous, so I just wanted to clarify that for you folks.”

With the zoning amendment bylaw passed, construction will be able to begin on the section between 0.5 and 1.5 kilometres that falls within the District of Sicamous.

Residents weigh in on zoning change

More than a dozen residents spoke at the hearing in support of the rezoning amendment, including CSRD electoral area E Director, Rhona Martin.

Two residents spoke against the zoning amendment. They made it clear they support the rail trail in general, but that they believed the park zoning would impact their ability to keep their docks on Mara Lake.

Residents identifying themselves as dock owners had voiced their opinions against passing the zoning for the rail trail at the original public hearing on Feb. 14.

Natalie Sorkilmo spoke out against the zoning amendment, identifying herself as a resident who lived along the rail trail lands, as well as a business owner in town. She said she was one of the people who distributed rail trail flyers ahead of Wednesday's public hearing.

“Yes, we distributed the flyers,” Sorkilmo said. “And you know what, it's brought everybody out tonight and I think that's really important.”

She said she had also sent a letter to Sicamous council warning of what she claimed are legal implications of the proposed P3 zoning as it relates to the district's Official Community Plan.

Sorkilmo declined to provide further details at the meeting, saying she would make the letter publicly available. It was not made clear when or where she would be posting the document.

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