LTC support sought to keep rental unit
A rezoning application meant to legalize a nonconforming dwelling as affordable housing will be on the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee meeting agenda Feb. 16, where the committee will decide whether to close the file for good or to carry on with the property owners’ preferred path.
Applicants Robyn Kelln and Jamie Colligan are seeking support to keep a second dwelling on a property where cottages are not permitted as a rental unit, and plan to guarantee it stays affordable with a registered housing agreement. Islands Trust staff have recommended otherwise, citing a long history of unlawful use, the danger of setting precedent by accepting such behaviour and lack of information on how water use might impact the neighbourhood.
Kelln is frustrated by staff’s recommendation, given the LTC has made housing one of its top priorities. Closing the application would eventually mean one less home is available when supply is critically short. The current tenant is a young woman who works in a retail business.
“Staff needs to be told to work with the applicant regardless, and come up with a work-around,” Kelln said. “If the true intent of our trustees is to actually address the need for housing, then one would think the instructions to staff would firmly convey every effort to assist and not to obstruct.”
Kelln has owned the property on North End Road since 1994. The secondary home that fronts onto Mariko Place has been occupied since 1992, and was originally permitted as a residence for the previous owners’ parents. The building was supposed to have been decommissioned after those people no longer lived there but has continued to be occupied. Islands Trust bylaw enforcement has been active since 1996, with actions including a 2010 court order prohibiting the cottage’s use as a dwelling.
Staff have suggested that it would be difficult to enforce a housing agreement and ensure the unit meets the conditions for “affordable rent,” and that such enforcement could be necessary given the applicants’ previous history of noncompliance.
Previous hydrologist reports that Kelln acquired state his well has enough water to supply both residences on the property, and that such use would not impact any streams in the area. The Trust’s freshwater specialist William Shulba feels their testing measures were probably inadequate, however.
In December 2019, the LTC passed a resolution asking the applicant to provide a sustained well pump test of at least 12 hours and to monitor a neighbouring well to see how the local water supply might be impacted.
Kelln said he has asked some neighbours whether they would be willing to participate in the test and they have regretfully declined — a position he completely understands given the need to shut off their water supply for two days and to intrude on their well operations.
“The water test cannot be met. This is outside my power; I cannot force the neighbours to do a pump test,” Kelln said. “All of a sudden you’re put under a microscope and you can’t meet the conditions.”
The applicants don’t believe there will be any new impact to the neighbourhood given the cottage’s long history.
“It’s been occupied for 30 years and there’s never been any problem,” Kelln said.
The Feb. 16 meeting agenda and a link to participate in the Zoom meeting are available on the Islands Trust website at www.islandstrust.bc.ca/islands/local-trust-areas/salt-spring/.