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Secondary suite rezoning bid rejected by courtenay council

Courtenay council voted against rezoning to allow a secondary suite on Hobson Place after hearing from concerned neighbours.
During Monday's public hearing, council heard from seven neighbours opposed to rezoning 591 Hobson Pl., on the corner of Hobson Place and Sixth Street East. No neighbours spoke in favour of the application. Increased traffic, lack of parking, illegal activity and decreased property values were among the concerns.
"The intersection at Hobson and Sixth is particularly busy and dangerous," said resident Marianne Winter. "The steepness of Sixth Street presents a blind spot to those who would be leaving."
Resident Ron Peta was concerned that a precedent would be set, allowing more densification in the future.
He said the home had been bought as an investment and that the owner would be an absentee landlord. He worried about illegal activity, pointing out that he lives across from an illegal secondary suite right now and he suspects drug deals happen in the area.
"We'll have increased numbers of tenants and a better chance of illegal activity," said Peta.
Other speakers, including Len Mallette, noted drug dealing activity happens in the area. He suggested the Courtenay sign read 'slumming it down in progress.'
Neighbour Loretta Tuchsherer said people buying a home who want a secondary suite for rental can choose other parts of the city already zoned for this use, and also noted concerns about increased traffic and noise levels, and reduced property values.
She pointed out that her and her husband have already been to another public hearing for a rezoning application on Hobson Place within the past year.
"I'm very annoyed at having to appear before you to defend a zoning bylaw for the second time within a year," said Tuchsherer. "We should not be placed into a situation of constantly protecting adherence to the established zoning bylaws."
Coun. Jon Ambler said every citizen has a right to ask if their property can be rezoned.
"Just as people people can speak against (rezoning), people have to be allowed to ask for it; that's how it works," said Ambler. "What is really irritating and annoying is to live in a country that doesn't allow that."
Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard, the only councillor to vote in favour of rezoning, called the decision a "toss-up," and pointed out that six households not present at the public hearing were in favour of rezoning the property.
She also questioned the validity of comments that tenants are not as good of neighbours as homeowners.
"I do have a bit of a problem with the idea that tenants are worse neighbours than landowners," said Leonard. "In my neighbourhood there's actually a landowner who is a drug dealer."
Coun. Manno Theos commented that the applicant was not present at the public hearing.
City staff said the homeowner had to go overseas.
Theos also said he drives down the steep hill on Sixth Street East mentioned by Winter on a daily basis, and agreed with her concern about vehicles backing out onto the busy road.
"It is a very, very dangerous spot, and that to me is turning this proposal around," said Theos.
Mayor Larry Jangula said he thinks Hobson Place has seen more applications for secondary suites than any other area in the city, and said he agreed with the residents' concerns.
The application was denied with a 5-1 vote. Coun. Bill Anglin was not present at the council meeting.
Coun. Starr Winchester said she doesn't want any more similar rezoning applications for this area to come before council.
"I'm hoping this would be the last time that we hear a request for a secondary suite on Hobson," said Winchester.
writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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