Cumberland council turned down a rezoning request for 4693 Cumberland Rd., suggesting the applicant apply for a temporary use permit. Photo by Mike Chouinard

No quick fix for auto shop site in Cumberland

Council recommends the applicant get a temporary use permit for now

Council in Cumberland suggested a different fix for the community’s one auto mechanic operation.

At the Dec. 9 meeting around a proposed rezoning, council leaned more toward a temporary solution to bring the site into compliance.

The applicant, Tom Brown, had submitted an application for the property at 4693 Cumberland Rd. The request was to amend the official community plan (OCP) and the zoning bylaw in order the change the permitted use from residential to commercial.

The site is zoned residential but had been operating as an auto mechanic shop since the early 1990s when the previous owner ran Hartley’s Automotive Repair. At the time, the site permitted commercial, though in the intervening years, the zoning changed, so the property was considered by the Village as legally non-conforming.

Brown bought the property in 2016 but rented out the house, meaning it lost its legally non-conforming status. As well, there were complaints about issues such as unsightliness, which have now prompted the business to apply for a rezoning. The owner is no longer able to get a business licence, and he has moved back to the property.

Staff, however, have concerns with the proposal for reasons such as the location of property near a busy intersection, the inclusion of additional commercial uses that, even if the current owner does not wish to use, would still be permitted and a preference among staff to let non-conforming use designations expire rather than being legitimized.

“However, they recognize the business has been operating in Cumberland and serving the community for 28 years,” senior planner Karin Albert told council.

They recommended denying the application, while the Village’s advisory planning commission (APC) had suggested, rather than rezoning, the property could go through the process of spot-zoning through which the Village could address some of the bylaw contraventions. Spot-zoning refers to site-specific zoning regulations for one location. One of the downsides, Albert said, is that the status would remain on the property even if the owner sells it.

READ MORE: Comox council denies rezoning application

Council members fell on both sides, with some such as Coun. Vickey Brown leaning toward the APC recommendation, especially as the business is the only auto shop in the community, while others like Coun. Jesse Ketler and Mayor Leslie Baird agreed with the staff recommendation, citing concerns from neighbours such as traffic and road safety, after-hours work and mess on the site, as well as the need for the owner to know whether the site is in compliance.

“I have mixed feelings about this,” Baird said. “It was always an issue.”

The mayor then asked about a temporary use permit, which would run for three years and can be renewed one time, after which time an owner would have to apply for a rezoning.

In the end, council unanimously opted to follow the staff recommendation to deny the application. Council also passed a motion to have the Village recommend the owner apply for a temporary use, with Ketler and Coun. Gwyn Sproule opposing.

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