Add $4000 and 4 months to many renovation or development activities on your lakefront lot or house. If you're within 100m of the high water mark, and most of us are, anything more than a minor modification will trigger a 100m Lake Development Permit application. The following are a few examples of how this might work.
First, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all Directors on the Columbia Shuswap Regional District Board who are newly elected, reelected, and returned by acclamation. I would also like to ask them to focus on improving our regional economy as a first priority over the next 4 years.
One of the most egregious examples of local government regulation that hurts our economy is the 100 m Lake Development Permit which has worked its way into the Official Community Plans in Area C and F. I’ve written about this in past articles but I have heard increasing frustration from homeowners and contractors over this issue.
This is “feel good” regulation that on the surface sounds like the lake is being protected but is anything else in practice.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this local government regulation, I will briefly recap the requirements. This Development Permit is intended to address the impacts of “development beyond a single family residence” on Shuswap Lake. There are three triggers to needing one of these permits.
- Removal of more than 30% of the vegetation on a lot.
- A total hard surfacing of more than 450 m2 or 30% of a lot if smaller than 0.10 ha (0.25 acres)
- Installation, alteration, or replacement of (or a portion of) a sewerage system.
If any of these thresholds are crossed, then a report prepared by professional engineer who is experienced in hydrogeology is required. These reports typically cost in the order of $4000.
Let’s look at how practical this really is and what is actually accomplished for a typical “single family residence.”
If you have a 1.0 acre lot we’re starting with 4047 m2 so at 30% you can clear 1214 m2 and not trigger a development permit. You want to build a modest 1200 ft2 home (30’ x 40’ or 9 m x 12 m) which shouldn’t be a problem. You are also a responsible person and decide to build by the FireSmart principles that are endorsed by our local government. This requires clearing 10 m around your new house for wildfire protection. Therefore you must clear 29 m x 32 m which equals 928 m2. Now you need to clear a driveway that meets our local government suggested width of 6 m. That’s another 6 m x 60 m or 360 m2. We’re now at 1288 m2 of clearing and over the threshold for a development permit without even allowing for a septic field.
What does this mean in practical terms? There is no mention of a cumulative total which does make sense otherwise if you owned a lot that already had more than 30% cleared, removing a single tree would require a development permit. So if for example you need to clear 50% to accommodate what you plan to develop, you can legally clear 25%, wait a couple of weeks and clear the other 25%.
There is an old adage, if reasonable people make reasonable rules, then reasonable people will follow them.
Now let’s look at the second trigger of having more than an aggregate of 450 m2 of hard surfaced area. If you are a tennis fan, add $4000 to the cost of your 670 m2 court. If you want a paved driveway, a turn around area, and parking for 4 cars add $4000 to the cost of paving.
Now for the third trigger. If you are building a new house within 100 m of the lake you should be putting in a new septic system but do these development permit requirements encourage people to do the environmentally responsible thing? A homeowner can save spending $4000 on a hydrology report by using the old septic system if they can keep the number of bedrooms and square footage the same as the old house. If a home owner has a leaking septic tank they have three choices; break the law and spend $500 to fix it and save $4000, ignore the leak and save $4000, or do the right thing and upgrade your system to meet today’s standards. Unfortunately, doing the right thing will add $4000 for a hydrology report to the typical cost of $20,000 on a complete system replacement.
Our local government should be asking themselves what they are really accomplishing with this regulation.
I also question why our local government is getting this involved in residential sewage disposal in the first place. Their role should be limited to ensuring provincial legislation with respect to sewage disposal is met before issuing building permits. Sorry, that’s a bit simplistic. Actually having a building bylaw that requires building permits is a local government responsibility, but the bylaw only exists in Area F.
Sewage disposal is clearly a provincial responsibility. The province controls the BC Sewerage Regulation and if our local government doesn’t think it is effective then talk to the province. I always hear about the province downloading costs to local government but this is a case of local government piling it on themselves.
So what does this do to our economy? Residential projects are delayed. Typically a hydrology report takes around 3 to 4 months to get completed. The Development Permit then takes another 3 months. Often projects are cancelled by frustrated land owners which hurts our local contractors.
Our local Registered Onsite Wastewater Practitioners (who have invested a lot of time and money in training) can’t work within 100 m of the lake. The hydrologists make a lot of money which good for Kamloops, Vernon, and Kelowna but not so much for the Shuswap unless they vacation here.
Professional Engineers (for the record, I don’t work in this field) who aren’t hydrologists are prohibited from doing residential sewage disposal design despite university training, professional accreditation, liability insurance, and being designated by the province as qualified to do this type of work.
So in essence, we have a regulation that was implemented with the lofty ideals of protecting the lake that in practice accomplishes nothing positive and hurts our local economy.