Terrace zoning bylaws enter 21st century

Those who may assume their requests at city council meetings fall on uncaring ears should take note of the story of a local carpenter

Those who may assume their requests at city council meetings fall on uncaring ears should take note of the story of local carpenter Bill Mainwaring and how his recommendations changed the new city zoning bylaw.

Owner of local company Fantastic Fencing, Mainwaring presented to council in 2013, requesting a change in maximum fence height. He complained of labour costs associated with having to cut off sections of beam for fence posts and fence siding to meet the height requirements that were just a touch shorter than industry standard lengths.

Well, late last year when the new zoning bylaw was adopted, Mainwaring must have been happy to see the change has been made in response to his presentation.

The new maximum height for a front yard fence is now 1.2 metres and the maximum height for a rear and side yard fence is now 1.85 to better match the manufacturer’s standard for fencing material.

This was just one detail in the long document that updates previous municipal codes not revised since 1995.

The changes are both large and small, related to the permitted uses and rules regarding everything property-related in Terrace.

According to city councillor James Cordeiro the zoning changes were needed to bring Terrace into the 21st century.

“One key factor was to align the regulations in the zoning bylaw with policy in the official community plan,” said Cordeiro by email. “The 1995 date of the old zoning bylaw is clearly a factor as well as ‘best practices’ in land use planning have advanced and priorities have shifted over the years.”

“Given the forecasted growth in the community it is important to have a zoning bylaw relevant to the current and future needs of the community,” he added.

Bigger changes and additions include the removal of the RR1 rural residential zone which could only contain one primary house on a two-acre lot, as well as provisions that apply to home-based businesses.

The removal of the RR1 zone also has implications. The city said they decided to do it because the large two acres plots had a tendency to create sprawl whereas the community plan calls for policy that facilitates densification. Now everyone whose property fell into the obsolete zone has been switched to R1 residential or AR2 rural depending, generally, on whether they are within the containment boundary of city services.

The current use of these properties is still permitted, and are called “legal non-conforming”. The new rules will apply to future development on the legal non-conforming properties. “For those properties that have been rezoned, to R1 or AR2 or otherwise, the regulations in the zoning bylaw of the new zone will apply for anything new they want to do, i.e. build a shop,” reads the bylaw.

The new section for at-home businesses is called Home Occupation and contains various regulations such as one stating that only a single non-resident employee can be employed at the home business.

There are also provisions for marihuana grow-ops, and the city bylaw lays out rules for growing.

“The bylaw stipulated that a medical marihuana production facility in the AR1 zone (which includes all lands within the Agricultural Land Reserve) is the only zone in which a “Medical Marihuana Production Facility” is a permitted use,” said a statement from the city’s planning department.

“Sale, production, packaging etc. is federally regulated,” the statement continues.

New rules regarding using shipping containers on properties for storage are also included, something which the city says is happening a lot, but is now only permitted in the commercial and industrial zones.

Green aspect

With the BC Climate Action Charter giving general directions for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, the City of Terrace decided that its new zoning bylaw was a good opportunity to decrease the regulatory boundaries for those interested in alternative energy projects on city land.

“It’s a good opportunity to include a section on sustainable energy and to not be silent on the matter,” said planner Tara Irwin, who also used to be the city’s sustainability coordinator.

The new zoning bylaw outlines some basic rules around solar, wind and geothermal developments. “The cost of solar is really coming down,” said Irwin.