July 20th, 2024

City council nixes first reading on land use bylaw amendments

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on February 28, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge city council on Tuesday voted 6-2 to refer first reading of proposed Phase 1 amendments to Land Use Bylaw 6300 to administration for incorporation into the new proposed land use bylaw.

After a lengthy debate Tuesday afternoon, council decided that more debate and discussion is needed on the proposed changes regarding social uses such as supportive housing and shelters.

Those proposed amendments would make some uses permitted with required criteria such as buffer distances from schools and playgrounds. The changes would also explore allowing them in more land use districts within the land use bylaw.

One such use of concern brought up during the meeting was safe consumption sites.

Bylaw 6437, which was to be brought forward by senior community planner Ross Kilgour and Planner II Genesis Molesky, said social uses include current LUB 6300 definitions for drop-in centres, food banks, group homes, resource centres, shelters, soup kitchens and supportive housing.

“Bylaw 6437 would impact people’s access to necessary social uses by amending use definitions, updating existing land use district composition by allowing some uses in more districts and changing some existing discretionary uses to permitted uses, and introducing development standards such as buffer distances and CPTED requirements,” said the presentation which was never discussed because of council’s motion.

Councillors Belinda Crowson and Jeff Carlson voted against the motion. Jenn Schmidt-Rempel was absent.

The City is undertaking its first renewal of the land use bylaw in 40 years and it is being done in four phases. The first involves engagement activity to identify needs and preferences for land use regulations of social issues and proposed amendments to the LUB.

The motion approved by council states in part “it is important for the community to have timely knowledge of any proposed zoning changes that may affect them and to allow them the opportunity to have input regarding any proposals that may be made.”

It adds “it would be more beneficial for council and the community to review proposed amendments to the Land Use Bylaw and consider the options and implications as a complete package.”

The approved motion calls for administration to present the amendments for incorporation into the proposed LUB to be presented for consideration by council by the second quarter of 2026 or as soon as possible. If that presentation is made in 2026, that will be into the term of the next city council.

Councillor Rajko Dodic questioned administration extensively about the whole bylaw and its potential impact on land owners while Mark Campbell asked about the impact of both passing the motion and defeating it.

Crowson opposed the delay, noting the time the matter has already been facing council.

Councillor Nick Paladino said he felt it’s important to take a closer look and see if there are options for some sort of compromise.

Mayor Blaine Hyggen said that an SCS being a potential permitted use was of concern to him, noting that there is a need to respect neighbours and neighbourhoods.

It’s important, the mayor said, for council to respect the community.

Kilgour’s report said “if social uses continue to be limited to certain districts, and are listed only as discretionary uses, it is reasonable to expect rezonings and/or development permits will continue to be refused, and the deficit in provision of social uses will worsen.”

Between 2019 and 2022, zero of three applications for supportive housing developments were approved in Lethbridge while of 17 development applications received by the City for the development of any social use in those years, nine were approved, four refused and four withdrawn by the applicant.

Of applications received for a rezoning of any social use in the years 2019-2022 two were approved, six refused and eight withdrawn by the applicant.

Under the proposed amendment to the LUB, new SCSs would be limited to Direct Control Districts and not allowed in any standard district.

The proposal also states that “where Supervised Consumption Site is a listed use in a Direct Control District, medical and health office (outpatient) must be an additional listed use. This will facilitate addiction and mental health services continuum of care.”

The proposal also calls for a minimum 150-metre distance between and SCS and “any parcel on which an education facility is located, any parcel designated as municipal reserve, school reserve, or municipal and school reserve,” and any parcel designated as parks and recreation. This means, says the report, that many existing parcels in the city couldn’t be used for an SCS because of the existence of a school or part.

“If an applicant wished to create a SCS under the proposed new regulations, they would need to apply to rezone a parcel to a Direct Control district which included SCS as a permitted use. The rezoning decision would be made by city council,” says the proposed amendment to the LUB.

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Pull the carpet from the provision of social uses in the LUB, and kick the can for approval of the bylaw to the next Council. Cowardice? Incompetence?