Nakusp zoning revamp proposes more flexible housing options

·5 min read

Nakusp Village councillors got a first look at a new zoning bylaw that would encourage new housing and clean up problems in the current rules.

Helene Miles of Urban Systems, the consultant hired last fall to do the review, presented the draft bylaw to council at its meeting August 22.

The new regulations see some zoning areas simplified, new land-use designations created, and tweaks to encourage development and address the ongoing housing crisis in the community.

While council gave the bylaw first reading, allowing it to move forward in the approval process, they wanted to see some changes before it comes back to them.

A zoning bylaw sets the base rules for what activities can be done in certain parts of the communities, and the kinds of buildings that can be constructed there to accommodate that. It sets rules on the size, height, design, and footprint of a building, as well as the purpose it can be used for – from housing to rentals to commercial or industrial uses.

“The goal is for a harmonious plan that encourages development and reduces conflict in land use,” Miles said. “The zoning bylaw also manages the impact of new development, and it can be enforced for non-compliance. It also has a main goal to implement the policy of the Official Community Plan.”

Addressing housing issues

The review by Urban Systems worked on cleaning up and modernizing the bylaw, ensuring it works with rules from other levels of government (like the Agricultural Land Reserve or the RDCK’s floodplain bylaw) and provides clarity for developers.

Much of the work focused on improving housing options in the village. New rules were established for a ‘shelf-ready’ zone for tiny homes on individual pads, similar to a mobile home park. Up to 20 tiny homes would be allowed on a hectare of land. “This zone has been prepared to support staff with model regulations if a developer or resident decides to pursue a rezoning for this type of development,” Miles explained.

Updated rules are now in place for ‘accessory dwelling units’ – things like carriage homes, garage suites and granny flats.

Short-term rentals are also allowed – one per single-detached home on a residential lot. The owner or a caretaker has to live on the property full-time to qualify.

Recreational vehicles, or RVs, can be used as dwellings for up to three weeks in a residential neighbourhood, longer if the resident applies for a Temporary Use Permit.

People who need a place to store their stuff while they build their main home can now build a garage first, and their principal residence later.

There are other rules as well, including increasing a building’s footprint on a lot, parking requirements, allowing tourist accommodations on agricultural land, and a prohibition against drive-through restaurants.

Pushback from council

Several of the new rules raised concern among council members, including whether limiting short-term rentals to single-detached dwellings was too restrictive.

“What about someone who owns two condos, town homes, or a duplex – how can that fit in if it’s not a single detached?” asked Mayor Tom Zeleznik. “I can see that being an issue.”

“I thought we were going for clarity,” said Councillor Ken Miller. “But this bylaw says you have to be an owner, and our business licencing doesn’t say you have to be an owner. We didn’t want this to be disputable. We wanted this bylaw to be clearer.”

Miles said the consultants were working from feedback received by council and the public, and noted rules are still in development.

“These proposed changes are just proposals. If council would prefer if the owner or caretaker lives on site, and make it a requirement, we can make it clear that is a requirement,” said Miles.

Another issue that caused Miller concern was a decision to remove single-detached dwellings as a permitted use in commercial zones. An existing home in that zone wouldn’t be affected unless it was being purposely demolished or there was an application to enlarge it.

That rule raised objections from Miller, who lives on a street designated years ago for incremental development as a limited commercial corridor. He was told under these rules, he wouldn’t be able to take out a building permit to build an addition or change the footprint of his residence.

“This really hits close to home, it’s really personal,” he said. “This is the first I have heard of it.”

“Maybe I should tell the 60 people that this affects and let them know they should come to the public hearing,” he added. “This is what happened the last time. They made my home a commercial lot, and the bank refused to finance a non-conforming residence. That’s why council reneged last time and added single-family residence back in [to the zoning].”

Staff assured Miller his and other residential properties would remain a conforming use, and he would be able to rebuild if the property was destroyed, or sell it as a residence. This draft was just that – council is still able to make changes.

“What you are doing right now is an exercise in what you want the village to look like in 20-25 years – that’s the whole idea of the zoning exercise,” said CAO Wayne Robinson. “You are creating a long-term vision of how you want the village to grow and develop.”

Village staff took note of a number of council’s suggestions and objections and will review them with an eye to tweak the bylaw in time for its next reading. That should be some time in September, and another public hearing on the draft bylaw around that time will give citizens a chance to provide feedback. Legal reviews and final changes should happen sometime in October, with the bylaw receiving final council approval likely before the end of the year.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice