Trustees begin bylaw amendment process to allow dog sitting with temporary use permit

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, December 16 2015

The Gabriola Local Trust Committee (LTC) has approved staff moving ahead with the necessary steps to make dog sitting a permitted use within the temporary use permit (TUP) system.

For someone to open a dog sitting operation, two things have to happen:

1. The LTC will have to make amendments to both the Official Community Plan (OCP) and Land Use Bylaw (LUB) through the bylaw amendment system, which will see the usual three-motion and public hearing/feedback process.

2. If the amendments are eventually put in place, those wishing to run a dog sitting operation in their home will have to get a temporary use permit, which will again require a public feedback process. The neighbours of the applicant will have to be notified by the applicant and will be able to give feedback on whether they (the neighbours) feel the operation is appropriate within their neighbourhood.

At the LTC meeting on November 26, Trustee Heather O’Sullivan asked staff what happens if someone isn’t meeting the conditions of their TUP.

Aleksandra Brzozowski, Island Planner, said if conditions are not being met, then bylaw enforcement would be involved.

Trustee Melanie Mamoser asked how allowing dog sitting through a TUP process would be different than approving it as a home-based occupation.

If something is approved for operation as a home-based occupation on a specific zoning on Gabriola, each operator is not required to get permission from the LTC to open up for business.

Brzozowski said the difference would be that “the granting of the [temporary use] permit is considered by the LTC and there is the additional step with public notification. 

“Temporary use permits have to go through a permit process.”

Each person wanting to operate as a dog-sitting location would have to go through his/her own TUP application to the Trustees, and TUPs (good for three years) can only be renewed a limited number of times before operators are asked to apply for a variance to continue doing business.

LTC Chair Laura Bushekin asked if some specifics could be given within the proposed bylaw even though Trustees can still, for each TUP application, ask how many dogs would be allowed, hours of operation, noise control, fencing, et cetera. 

Brzozowski said Trustees can place a set criteria and limitations within the regulations, but added that each time it comes in, staff will go through the application and make recommendations specific to the site.

Mamoser said she liked allowing some flexibility.

She said the feedback given on the issue so far from current operators and members of the public was that “they were looking for flexibility. We’ll be dealing with different lots where number of dogs appropriate will be different.

“I would like to try this out.

“Ultimately this may become a home occupation - but for now we’re trying this out to see what this would be like in the community.”

O’Sullivan said she agreed. “We need to be more nuanced and look at where we want to make sure we have the flexibility to work with people and neighbours and where we want to say these are the mitigating factors.

The following were guidelines for the TUP proposed within the staff report presented on Nov. 26.

As the file has now been approved for staff to draft bylaw amendments to both the OCP and LUB, all of the following points are still subject to editing by staff and the Trustees.

1. The Local Trust Committee may consider issuance of a temporary use permit for a dog sitting operation if the proposal does not alter the character of the surrounding neighbourhood;

2. The Local Trust Committee should consider the cumulative effects on the neighbourhood and island of all temporary use permits issued for dog sitting operations;

3. The Local Trust Committee should require mitigating measures to address concerns in regard to noise;

4. The Local Trust Committee should require mitigating measures to address concerns in regard to screening and fencing;

5. The Local Trust Committee should require mitigating measures to address concerns in regard to disposal of pet waste, so that the intended use will not adversely affect local well water or the quality of the natural environment (including the marine environment);

6. The Local Trust Committee should consider any other concerns deemed applicable with respect to the specific application;

7. The landowner should be required to provide proof that the property is able to accommodate a minimum of two vehicles in addition to those owned by residents;

8. The operator should be required to be available by telephone 24 hours/day, seven days a week;

9. A condition of the permit should limit the number of dogs on the lot at any one time to a particular maximum, which would include dogs permanently residing on the lot;

10. A condition of the permit should require that the dogs be housed in the primary dwelling unit only;

11. A condition of the permit should require designated quiet hours;

12. A condition of the permit should require that the operator must provide owners of all adjacent properties and landowners within a 100 metre radius of the dog sitting operation with the operator’s phone number and a copy of the temporary use permit;

13. A condition of the permit should restrict the maximum number of signs advertising the dog sitting operation to one sign.

Writing to the Sounder after the LTC meeting, Brzozowski stated, “The general consensus by the LTC was that a temporary use permit would be the most appropriate regulatory tool to address this issue. The LTC then went through the draft guidelines point by point, and directed staff to revise the guidelines about neighbourhood character, noise, fencing and screening, parking and expectations around operator contact. 

“They also requested to add a guideline about supervision.

“I really want to stress to the public that the decision made thus far has been around which tool to consider. The process considering the amendment itself, including a public comment period and a public hearing, will unfold once a draft bylaw is given first reading. So if the bylaws are given first reading in January, we are looking at a public comment period through to spring 2016. Public comment about the proposed amendments will be a key factor in the LTC’s decision, so formal participation next winter/spring will be very important, whichever side one takes on this issue.

“The staff report and draft bylaws will be part of the January 14 agenda which will be posted on the Gabriola website as soon as we get back in the New Year.”