An Osoyoos homeowner who jumped the gun on construction of a backyard shed has been denied the necessary development variance permit to bring the structure into bylaw compliance, but he promises that he will do whatever it takes to correct his initial mistake.
The Torey Pines property not only has a razor-thin required setback of 1.2 metres, which would have been shrunk to 0.3 metres if the permit was approved, but it also has to follow the guidelines for the Dividend Ridge subdivision design scheme and any new construction is supposed to be cleared by the developer before work begins.
Homeowners Justin and Amanda Fortin were reportedly not aware of these restrictions when they began work on their new shed. When town staff were made aware of the bylaw breach, they asked the Fortins to delay any further construction and apply for the necessary permits, to which they complied.
Their development variance permit application was accepted by council on May 9 and moved forward to a public hearing, where two letters of support and one letter of objection from neighbours were considered by members of council.
Mayor Sue McKortoff opened the discussion with her opinion that a structure that violates two different sets of guidelines might be grounds for a total return to the drawing board, not an exception to one of them.
Councillor Jim King voiced his concern about the precedent that could be set by accepting retroactive development variance permits, saying that it didn’t “sit well” with him or with the bylaw system.
“I’m struggling with the idea of passing something after the fact,” said King. “Now you’re trying to get something past, and to me that’ll just open the door to a lot of developers saying, “Well, let’s just build it now and ask for forgiveness after!”
Councillor Johnny Cheong argued in response that vigilance is important when it comes to bylaw enforcement, but complete inflexibility wasn’t necessary for applicants like the Fortins. With no outside developer involved, said Cheong, he didn’t see any need to make an example of them for building a shed without awareness of the bylaws.
The deciding factor seemed to arise when Councillor Zachary Poturico and McKortoff asked if the homeowner was willing to move or rebuild the structure if he did not receive the permit, which Justin Fortin came forward to confirm in person.
“I haven’t decided if I’ll be moving it or reducing its size . . . but it’s not my intention to go against the bylaws if I don’t get clearance,” said Fortin. He also confirmed for McKortoff that he will speak to the subdivision’s developer before making his final decision about how to move forward.
A motion to approve the permit did not receive enough votes to pass, and council ultimately chose to leave responsibility with the Fortins to bring their property back into compliance with the current bylaws as they stand.
The Fortins will also have to consult the developer of Dividend Ridge to ensure that any future plans comply with the subdivision’s design scheme.