A downtown zoning bylaw is meant to make property zoning easier to navigate, but there may be unintended consequences. (Don Denton/BLACK PRESS)

Omnibus zoning bylaw sent for revisions to prevent blanket upzoning in downtown Victoria

Up to 10 downtown properties identified by Downtown Residents Association

An omnibus zoning bylaw has been sent back for revisions after ten downtown lots were identified to potentially allow large developments or significant upzoning without further public notification and input.

Victoria city council cancelled a public hearing before considering the final draft of Zoning Bylaw 2017 Thursday (Dec. 14) evening after receiving a letter from the Downtown Residents Association (DRA). Had the bylaw been approved without amendments, eight lots along Quadra Street between Yates Street and Pandora Avenue, would have been up-zoned from a 1.5:1 to 3:1 density. The DRA previously identified two large properties between Herald, Fisgard and Store streets that could be amalgamated and developed without needing further approval, issues that were identified and discussed at committee of the whole the previous week.

Ian Sutherland, chair of the land use committee for the DRA, said he’s concerned public awareness and oversight could be lost in the process of simplifying the city’s zoning bylaws.

“Rezoning your property is not a right,” he said. “In order to get your property rezoned, you have to show it’s in the public good to do it, and that you might want to provide some amenities … because your property’s increasing in value.

“If a property requires rezoning today to build a condo, it should still require rezoning after this bylaw.”

RELATED: Omnibus Victoria zoning bylaw raises alarms

Sutherland noted he found those properties relatively quickly, and wondered why City, who has been working on the project for two years, did not flag these problems.

Mayor Lisa Helps said council sent staff back to study the DRA’s letter after counsellors received the latest letter the day of the hearing.

“The intention of the zoning bylaw is to make it simpler and easier, but it’s not meant to give any more density to property owners,” she said. “What we’ve asked our staff to do is to take one more look through based on the feedback from the DRA.

RELATED: New Victoria zoning bylaw would cut red tape for developers, downtown property owners

Although staff will review the letter, she noted that not everything the public asks for or says will make it into the bylaw.

“The key promise to the public is there is no upzoning of any land, any additional density, and we want to make sure the bylaw we bring forward reflects that,” she said.

The DRA, James Bay Neighbourhood Association, and Rockland Association previously sent letters to council and provided noting concerns about the bylaw, including unintentional upzoning, impact on parking requirements, and allowing micro suites.

Zoning Bylaw 2017 homogenizes upwards of 80 different zone types in downtown Victoria into three general types. It further includes changes to off-street parking requirements; creates definitions and regulations of brew pubs, distilleries, wineries and drinking establishments; and removes both light industrial and short-term rentals from acceptable land use.

lauren.boothby@vicnews.com

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Victoria’s new downtown zoning aims to be easier for property owners to understand. The proposed new zones have been simplified down from 82 types. (City of Victoria map)

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