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Kitimat council to challenge proposed housing legislation

Provincial orders will require relaxed zoning restrictions
Council will ask the province to increase it’s population threshold for communities in proposed legislation to mandate relaxed zoning regulations. File photo

Kitimat Councillor Mario Feldhoff has persuaded the mayor and council to formally oppose aspects of proposed provincial housing legislation, asserting that it infringes on municipal self-governance.

The proposed legislation will permit one secondary suite or one laneway home in all communities throughout B.C., but in municipalities with more than 5,000 people, these changes will also require bylaws to allow for three to four units on lots currently zoned for single-family or duplex use, and six units on larger lots with the same zoning.

“The goals of the provincial government are worthy, to provide more housing options, particularly for the missing middle, but the blunt tool of this legislation is inappropriate,” Feldhoff said. “It is disrespectful of the role of local government and makes a mockery of the significant public input processes associated with community-plan zoning and various development proposals.”

Voicing his concerns at the Sept. 6 council meeting, Feldhoff pushed for a motion to ask the province to increase the threshold from 5,000 to 10,000, thus sparing Kitimat’s 8,000 residents from the drafting of new bylaws. Feldhoff contends that the legislation disregards the district’s housing diversity, upends its housing plan and centralizes decision-making, potentially overriding local preferences and autonomy in community planning.

“This proposed legislation, with a threshold of 5,000 applying to all municipalities, is largely a unilateral, one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t take into account the nuances faced at the local level,” he said.

Highlighting the recent Strawberry Meadows neighborhood plan, Feldhoff noted the council’s deference to public opinion against increased zoning density—a stance seemingly at odds with provincial directives.

READ MORE: Kitimat Council approves Strawberry Meadows community plan

“Focusing on communities with more than 10,000 will put the focus on the biggest communities with the biggest challenges,” Feldhoff said. “It will allow the government to actively evaluate the effectiveness of the proposals prior to imposing them on smaller communities such as Kitimat.”

The motion sparked a long debate and a split in council opinions. Councillors Gerry Leibel, Michelle Martins, and Terry Marleau opposed the motion, noting the proposed legislation aligns with Kitimat’s existing Secondary Suite Incentive Program and questioning the relevance of a modest increase in the threshold.

The motion, however, passed with the mayor’s deciding vote.