Kaslo community plan review turns into complete bylaw rewrite

·4 min read

There comes a time in many home renovation projects when it is just easier to tear the project down to the studs and start over.

And that’s sort of what happened to the Village of Kaslo’s review of its Official Community Plan.

“After we started doing our public consultations and getting feedback… basically all the feedback affected all different parts of the plan,” says Kaslo CAO Ian Dunlop. He says the committee expected to make an amendment here and there, but it didn’t turn out that way.

“Once we got into the rewrites, and incorporating all the input we received, everything has been touched, changed a little bit. That’s why we’re going with a brand-new plan.”

Dunlop presented a draft of the new plan to council earlier this month. It’s the first review of the document since it was adopted a decade or so ago.

Adapting to change

Official Community Plans provide a blueprint for growth and development over the next two decades, but they reflect the experience and changes of the past. So the housing crisis being felt in Kaslo and across the country is reflected in the document’s encouragement of multi-family dwellings, tiny homes, and secondary suites on properties.

“There were a lot of rewrites to the Residential Land Use section,” notes Dunlop. “We heard loud and clear from people that there needs to be a diversity of housing types, we need to keep things affordable and people want the flexibility to build a tiny home, or a large home, or possibly have more than one dwelling on a property if the services can handle it.”

The pandemic is reflected in the Village’s drive to encourage housing where people can work from home, business innovation and entrepreneurship.

Even when climate change isn’t directly referenced in the document, its consequences can be seen in the plan’s details. The growing risk of forest fires is reflected in the suggestion to create a Wildfire Protection Development Permit – something to encourage residents to FireSmart the community.

“Any land in the urban-forest interface would be affected by this permit,” Dunlop says. “At this point it’s more an educational piece, offering homeowners advice on how they can reduce the risk of wildfire on their property, rather than being restrictive.”

There are other kinds of changes included in the plan, including ones to clear up annoyances in the system. The downtown’s historic buildings are still well protected under the development rules, but with the new ‘Heritage and Commercial’ area, building owners will no longer have to go before council for approval for simple exterior maintenance jobs like painting the building (if the colours match pre-approved guidelines). Village staff will have more authority to approve a developer’s application in the downtown if the project otherwise conforms with the existing heritage guidelines.

“If you are just doing something basic, do you need a permit at all? Maybe staff can review it and check the boxes and say it meets all these criteria, and ‘here’s your permit, off you go’,” says Dunlop. “But if it’s something more comprehensive, it’s justified to have a more public process and get council involved.”

The Village doesn’t have much property that’s designated industrial. The document says some could be developed near the aerodrome, or through the purchase of land on the outskirts of town.

Looking to the future

Another issue the OCP says council should begin to tackle is the question of the Village’s boundaries. The Village may move to own the Kemp Creek watershed, the source of the community’s drinking water.

“Boundary expansion has been talked about for decades here around the village, and now there’s language enshrined in the OCP to look at it seriously,” he says.

The OCP also mentions the Village’s intention to begin to more seriously engage in relationship building with Indigenous governments and promote reconciliation.

“We started off thinking we would do our consultation and build it into this new plan,” says Dunlop. “But it’s clear this is going to be a multi-year process and there’s healing involved. So that’s why the plan itself says we’re going to start down that road and build relationships.”

Dunlop told the Valley Voice at the beginning of the consultations in the fall of 2021 that the new OCP should help set the village’s path for the next 5-10, or even 20 years. He says he thinks it has done that.

“It really does capture where the community is at right now, and recognizes, looking back at the past, how development pressures have changed,” he says. “This new OCP really captures those changes that we’re seeing, and should set us up pretty well for the next 5-10 years.”

Council gave first reading to the new bylaw on August 23. The public will get a chance to provide final feedback at a hearing in September. Council should adopt the plan later in the fall. Depending on the timing, it could be the last item the current council deals with, or one of the first issues for the next council, after local elections in October.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice