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Councillor plans to propose more zoning changes for the Sicamous section of the rail trail

Zoning changes ahead?

Zoning issues for the Sicamous section of the Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail were resolved when the District of Sicamous council voted unanimously to pass the zoning amendment bylaw after a public hearing on April 10.

However Coun. Gord Bushell is proposing another zoning change for the trail in order to ease tensions with residents living adjacent to the trail.

The 50-kilometre trail, which is intended for pedestrian and cyclist use, is planned to run along shorelines, through rural farmland and forest from Sicamous to Armstrong.

When the zoning amendment bylaw to allow for construction of the trail initially came before council on Feb. 14, many residents who lived adjacent to the trail came out to request council hold off on approving the zoning until they had renegotiated crossing agreements with the rail trail owners.

The bylaw that was passed after the April 10 public hearing changed the zoning on the rail trail properties to P-3 parks zoning, and will allow for rail trail construction to begin.

Some residents who spoke at the public hearing against the rezoning of the rail trail lands claimed there were legal implications of changing the zoning to P-3, noting these were outlined in a letter from a lawyer.

Zoning concern outlined in letter

The letter is available to view as part of the agenda package for the District of Sicamous Council meeting on April 10 as it was submitted to the public hearing.

The letter comes from Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, one of Canada’s largest law firms. The author of the letter, Christopher Elrick, identifies himself as legal counsel of Randy MacDonald, a Sicamous resident who owns a dock along rail trail lands.

The letter does not contain the threat of a lawsuit, however it does encourage council to reject the bylaw amendment.

In the letter, Elrick puts forward several arguments for rejecting the bylaw. It claims P-3 park zoning does not allow for private moorage or docks.

Kelly Bennett, Chief Administrative Officer of Sicamous said that isn’t the case.

“So our zoning on our water, which dictates whether there's a dock allowed or not… we support in W-1, semi waterfront docks,” Bennett said. “That means if you don't own the land in front of it, we still allow it. But what they do need is they need upland consent, so they need permission from CSRD [Columbia Shuswap Regional District] and RDNO [Regional District of North Okanagan] to have that dock, that's a provincial requirement.”

The CSRD has changed the crossing agreements, and together with the other rail trail owners, created dock permits.

The permits have a 10-year term that is transferable to a new property owner in the event of a sale, and the permit has the option of a further 10-year renewal. Permits cost $1,000 per year, and the permit is subject to cancellation or relocation with a two year notice.

The terms of the permits have changed at least once in response to feedback from dock owners who objected to the original terms, however CSRD CAO John MacLean said the number of residents who have signed up for permits is “very few”.

He also said that in the event a decision is made for a dock to be removed, that decision would be made by the board of directors, not by CSRD staff.

Councillor to present new zoning suggestion

The lawyer letter also claims since Sicamous' Official Community Plan designates rail trail lands as a transportation corridor, then the P-3 zoning would not be consistent with the OCP.

Kelly Bennett said that isn’t correct.

“So where that's coming from is within our OCP that is identified as a transportation corridor,” she said. “And within our OCP, we support along that channel area a non motorized pathway, which is supported with our parks zone. So just because the name of the zone isn't the same as the name in the OCP, as long as the permitted uses align with what the OCP says, that's perfectly fine.”

Some of the dock owning residents along the trail have called for the properties to be zoned as a transportation corridor.

Currently Sicamous does not have that kind of zoning.

“So we don't currently have any kind of transportation corridor zone,” she said. “So we would have to make up that zone and identify what the permitted uses are within that zone, if we chose to do it.”

“However, with the P-3 zone, we're able to proceed and allow the pathway as a permitted use.”

At the April 24 District of Sicamous committee of the whole meeting, Bushell is planning to present a draft of a new transportation corridor zone titled P-6.

“This zone is intended to support the rail trail and provide a utility corridor for the future expansion of the Westside and services to Splatsin IR #3 and the lands beyond,” the draft document reads.

“Also intended to reduce conflicts among foreshore users, reduce complaints, minimize environmental degradation and support public and residential uses on the Foreshore and surface of Shuswap Lake & Mara Lake, in accordance with provincial private moorage guidelines, as well as recognize existing use by semi-waterfront parcels on Old Spallumcheen Road, Coach Road and Bruhn Road.”

Even with the new transportation corridor zoning, dock owners would still require a dock permit from the CSRD under provincial regulations.



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