Council overrides waterfront development concerns

Sicamous council is approving a development for a residential waterfront property despite concerns by staff and the province.

Sicamous council is approving a development application for a residential waterfront property despite concerns by district staff and the province.

At its regular meeting last Wednesday, council received a memo from district community planning officer Mike Marrs recommending the denial of a Watercourse Development Permit for a property at 501 Poage Avenue. The permit would reduce the riparian area or SPEA (streamside protection and enhancement area)  from the minimum 15 metre width, as identified in the district’s official community plan, to 10.5 metres. The applicant’s intent is to construct a 1,720-square-foot garage on the north end of the property, and replace the existing, non-conforming single-family residence with a 2,520-square-foot duplex.

As per the B.C. government’s Riparian Areas Regulation, local governments are to protect riparian areas “during residential, commercial and industrial development by ensuring a qualified environmental professional (QEP) conducts a science-based assessment of proposed activities.”

A QEP report was completed for the Poage property and Marrs said the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) and district staff had some reservations about the need to “bend the SPEA” for the proposed development.

Coun. Todd Kyllo, however, argued the whole idea of RAR and the SPEA is so “rules can be bent,” provided there is support from a QEP.

“There’s no fish, it’s not habitat, it’s not an important part that we need to save and keep,” said Kyllo. “He’s just asking for a variance that’s going to put a deck out into the SPEA.

“His QEP has agreed to it, and said there is going to be no harmful alteration to the fish habitat… There’s got to be more common sense in looking at what’s happening with these types of decisions that we’re making here on these types of things, especially when the QEP has already signed off.”

Coun. Jeff Mallmes said he agreed with Kyllo, and made reference to a letter from the province stating it actually supports the application.

In the two letters from FLNRO staff included with Marrs’ memo, there are concerns raised about the proposed encroachment into the SPEA and whether or not it is justified. However, in one of the letters, an FLNRO biologist leaves the final decision in the hands of the district.

“We will leave it up to the District of Sicamous to determine,” writes senior ecosystem biologist Laura Neild. “If they feel it is reasonable rationale for encroachment we have no additional concerns.”

Couns. Gord Bushell and Malcolm Makayev also spoke in favour of the application, with Makayev emphasizing the compensation package that’s being offered to offset the loss in the SPEA. When it came to the vote, council unanimously voted against the staff recommendation, and gave Marrs direction to issue the permit based on the plans as submitted.