Letter: Twenty-five lot calculation is erroneous

Tuesday, July 5 2016

When I first heard there was the possibility of another density transfer I thought it was a good idea. That’s how we acquired the 707 Park, and I wasn’t opposed to the idea of adding to it. Density transfer policies were put into the Offical Community Plan (OCP) in 1997 when Gail Lund and I were the local trustees. It took almost ten years for the policies to be utilized. Then in 2005-2006 our first and only application was processed and provided us with an opportunity to examine how well the policies worked. 

It turned out they worked very well , but there was one small glitch. We hadn’t considered that the formula of 1 lot for every 19.76 acres of Forestry land donated for public use would always result in a piece remaining (the remainder parcel). This gives the applicant one more lot than was intended; a small increase that I think we could live with.

If this was the only extra density allowed in the Potlatch application it would be acceptable. However, the density transfer policies contained in the OCP are not being followed and the end result could be many more lots than what is proposed. 

To determine how many lots the applicant is entitled to, the number of lots to be transferred from the mid-island Forestry parcels is added to those allowed by the current zoning on the receiving area. In the Potlatch application that number has been (erroneously) determined to be 25.

In our bylaws the density (number of lots allowed) in each zone is expressed as a min. average lot area. For density transfers the formula is: the total area receiving the lots divided by the number the applicant is entitled to. In this case 167.5 acres divided by 25 which results in a 6.7 acre min. average lot area. This formula is a policy in our OCP and applies to all density transfers. 

The min. average lot area is not to be confused with the min. lot area. The min. lot area determines what size the lots must be. The min. average lot area determines the number of lots allowed. 

The proposed bylaw has a min. average lot area of 4.7 acres. This number divided into the total receiving area (167.5 acres) results in an allowance for 34 lots, not 25 as proposed (one lot is lost because the required 5% park dedication is subtracted from the total area). Why calculate the density differently than the OCP stipulates? It’s a tried and true method that was used in the last density transfer, and we know it works. 

If the proposed bylaws are approved as is, the next step is a subdivision application. The subdivision approval authority divides the minimum average lot area in the bylaw into the total area being developed; any parkland above the 5% required is included in the total area. Applicants don’t lose any density for giving more park than required. 

Regarding the Potlatch application, the position of the Trust planning staff is that if the min. average lot area was any larger, the applicant would be unable to give us a 47 acre gift of park at subdivision. In fact, the opposite is true; the smaller the min. average lot area is, the more lots are allowed and the more lots allowed, the less land there is for park.

In this application the required 5% would be, at most, 8 acres. That leaves almost 160 acres of total area. With the min. average lot area as proposed in the bylaw, at least 33 lots would be allowed at the time of subdivision (159.5 divided by 4.7). 

It’s also staff’s position that policies in the OCP are only “guidelines” that don’t need to be followed. But the policy that determines the number of lots the applicant is entitled to is specific for a reason. It’s a formula that ensures that the number of lots we end up with is the number being proposed and no more. Non-compliance with policies in the OCP coupled with these miscalculations could be construed as an intentional attempt to allow more lots than what the applicant is entitled to. 

Islands Trust staff say that we shouldn’t worry because a covenant will be placed on the property to restrict the subdivision to 25 lots. Why use a covenant to control the density when using the correct min. average area in the zoning is a sure-fire method to achieve the same thing? The zoning can only be changed through a public bylaw amendment process. Covenants, on the other hand, can be challenged and discharged by the courts, and sometimes they don’t get registered, even when they’re required.

My advice would be to stick with the “tried and true” policy in the OCP that has been proven to work. 

~ Gisele Rudischer