Rezoning request a bit late
A rezoning amendment request introduced at the Sept. 24 Portage la Prairie city council meeting has likely placed city council in a no-win position.
To be fair to all six councillors and the mayor, it’s possible all may not have been aware of any irregularities outside of the granted permit before the zoning amendment request was made.
You can watch the entire council meeting on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RNLPMn0QKc) and at the 18:45 mark the first reading of the zoning amendment is introduced.
It’s impossible to imagine who on city council knew what and who knew nothing.
In short, one citizen received city council approval — a building permit — earlier this year to build an oversized garage with second floor storage. The process for approving this wish followed normal procedure. Neighbours were notified as were other parties whom could possibly be affected. All the I’s were dotted and the T’s crossed. A public meeting to learn if any objections to the oversized structure existed was held. The project passed public and municipal approval and the permit was granted to build a garage with second floor storage.
Fast forward to Sept. 24 and a rezoning request brings to light the second floor of the newly built garage is a nearly completed suite. The casual view from the street one can easily see the windows to let in light and the deck: looking more like a suite than a storage space.
A frustrated Coun. Brent Froese as much as threw up his hands in resignation as to how this situation came to be.
“I’m not sure how to express my dissatisfaction with this file,” Coun. Froese said. “It is a case where I believe the process has been hijacked in a way the building is already built and now they are asking for rezoning to allow it. I’m not sure how to show any approval of that method of doing business. I think the intent to put a residence was clear from the outset. I don’t think it was ever meant to be storage. The whole process was badly used.”
Kudos to Coun. Froese for speaking his mind and publicly airing that this is not a typical zoning amendment. Voters on Oct. 24 should remember this councillor.
Coun. Wayne Wall excused himself from the meeting while council talked about the rezoning request. He is the father to one of the rezoning request applicants.
When asked for information, Portage la Prairie Planning District Development Officer Kinelm Brookes only offered that the permit is being requested because the permit holder has done a lot more work. “That’s why we are asking to get this rezoned now,” Brookes said.
Brookes did not specify, how much more work, what kind of work, did the additional work meet or not meet with the granted building permit or if the second floor of the garage is now a suite instead of storage. He did not reveal if he or staff from the city planning department had inspected the site.
Council must now again consult neighbours to the project who approved one thing and got another.
The rezoning application to move from R1 (single family) to R2 (two families) will likely again be scrutinized during a public meeting. The applicants will have their opportunity to state their case.
On one hand, city council can tell the homeowner they cannot have a suite in an area not zoned for it. On the other, after hearing from neighbours and other parties that may be affected, and not hearing any complaints, very few or minor in nature, slap the applicants on the wrist and allow the zoning amendment.
City council has a responsibility to uphold its bylaws — all designed for good reasons — if neighbours voice serious objections.
But it’s like frustration Coun. Froese expressed that is the most telling: how did it happen? Should there have been a check or balance in the process? What will city council hand down as its decision?