A B.C. Supreme Court case over a variance to a home’s construction near Gonzales Hill Park has been dismissed due to the judge finding issues with who challenged the decision.
Justice Christopher Giaschi’s ruling Tuesday (Oct. 26) stopped short of considering whether a decision by the City of Victoria board of variance was reasonable. Instead, he found the Gonzales Hill Preservation Society (GHPS) doesn’t have standing as an organization to make such a challenge in the first place.
The variance being challenged allowed the rear setback of 1980 Fairfield Pl., which borders the park, to be reduced by about seven metres. It was granted by the board at a Dec. 17, 2020 meeting.
Under B.C. law, a board can order a minor variance if complying with a bylaw causes an applicant undue hardship. The Victoria board accepted that due to the area’s existing zoning bylaws, this would be the case for the homeowners.
The society worried that the home being built would impact the area’s Garry oak meadow and park’s views.
Giaschi’s decision focused on how the owners or occupants of adjacent properties must be notified and given the chance to be heard at a board of variance meeting. Although two of the society’s directors, Scott Chapman and Janya Freer, own a property bordering the lot in question, it was the society itself that sought the review.
Giaschi also rejected the society’s claim that it was an extension or continuation of the Gonzales Residents Association (GRA), which dates back to 1981 and dissolved in 1986. The preservation group registered as a legal entity in November of 2020.
“It is a completely different society and the timing of its incorporation, approximately one month before the board meeting, gives rise to an inference that it was incorporated solely to oppose the variance,” the justice wrote.
“The circumstances here suggest that the reason behind the incorporation of GHPS was simply to maximize the number of submissions that could be made to the board and to give the impression of widespread public opposition to the variance. This is not a tactic to be encouraged in relation to a minor variance and raises the status of GHPS to one of a ‘busybody.’”
The decision also referenced that during the December 2020 meeting, the park’s owner, the Capital Regional District, didn’t object to the variance.
“The society certainly thinks there are many reasons to be dismayed by this outcome, and notably the quashing of a public voice about the outcome of one of its parks, and the lack of stewardship of the CRD,” Chapman told Black Press Media in an email.
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