A backcountry cabin conundrum had council counting up its concerns.
A proposal by an upper Red Mountain Ski Resort resident to add a recreational cabin to his 20-acre property spun council into a debate on the possibility of opening a Pandora’s box of precedence for zoning amendments to subdivide in the hillside neighbourhood.
Warren Hamm requested an amendment to the MA-1 zone (the skiing terrain of Red Mountain) to allow up to two recreational cabins per parcel in the zone.
But city planner Mike Maturo said a number of servicing and building code issues remained outstanding and unaddressed on the property and he balked at recommending the amendment for approval.
An additional recreational cabin allowed on one parcel in the zone facilitated rental lodging, dual ownership and subsequent subdivision, he warned, scenarios not supported by the city’s Official Community Plan.
He recommended leaving the density at one recreation cabin per parent parcel, but council was divided by the prospect of allowing the amendment or disallowing it.
“I think the planner brought up a lot of issues that could come up down the way,” said councillor Kathy Moore. “I think when you look at these things, we shouldn’t go there.”
Councillor Jill Spearn said council has talked repeatedly in the past about the romantic notion of cabins on Red Mountain, and she liked the concept.
“But I don’t like that there are so many things … that need to be remedied in order for one to construct a cabin out there,” she said.
One recreation cabin per parent parcel is a permitted use that must meet a number of zoning bylaw and B.C. Building Code conditions prior to building permit issuance, including road access, emergency services, sewer and water.
Maturo warned that increasing the density of the recreation cabins could lead to associated uses (short-term lodging and associated commercial servicing) which could appear as new activities at the recreation cabins.
“The proposal as submitted could prompt a subdivision or strata proposal of land which is not appropriate for a growth boundary area as designated in the OCP,” Maturo said.
The proponent’s 20-hectare parcel, which is used primarily as a ski run—Jumbo and Orchards—has no access to a legal, dedicated road. As such the parcel is legally non-conforming due to the requirements in the Land Title Act.
Such a parcel would not be permitted within today’s legislative framework, so increasing the density
to two recreation cabins (and subsequent potential for subdivision) raises concerns for the building official who will first require road access at the permitting stage for any building, and for the approving officer, who may then be presented with a subdivision application within an unserviced area neither designated nor appropriate for subdivision.
Two recreation cabins could mean future complications due to the possibility of dual-ownership on land which does not now allow subdivision or strata applications.
“To convey ownership rights to two cabins created on one 20-ha. parent parcel, with a proposed density of one per 10 ha., would require a strata or subdivision process, plus a road dedication and servicing, which runs against the OCP’s Resource Management Area designation for the affected parcels,” Maturo said.
Councillor Jody Blomme did not see the amendment as precedence setting.
“On council we are in position where we can say, ‘Let’s make an exception.’ And I think this warrants an exception. The actual foot print of one extra cabin on this lot is rather insignificant,” she said, noting the unique positioning of the parcel in a remote area. “And you can’t say slippery slope because there aren’t going to be 200 other requests like this coming our way.”
And the cabin experience is one the Rossland area is noted for, said Mayor Greg Granstrom, and he did not see a problem with the amendment either.
Spearn asked Maturo if precedence could be set and how many other parcels could line up in that queue if this was approved. He said there were roughly 10 MA-1’s that listed a cabin permitted for recreational use.
With so few councillors at the meeting—Moore was on speaker phone—and only two in attendance, council was hesitant to pull the trigger on a decision.
Maturo suggested council refer the request back to city staff for further investigation into other options.
A motion was passed to defer the matter back to staff to investigate other options.
There are a number of recreation cabins in the peripheral areas of Rossland, each of which carries some form of grandfathered status due to their historical development on parcels, or through registered tenure dating from the mining era.
There are many cabins along recreational trails and some are on parcels on or near the Red Mountain ski area.
A recreation cabin represents a hybrid—part recreation day use and part overnight residential use—which does not fit easily into the OCP and zoning bylaws, nor is it compatible with the city’s Building Bylaw or BC Building Code.
Their historical “residential use” on unserviced parcels unattached to roads or servicing furthers their legal non-conformity due to local bylaws (zoning, Building Bylaw, subdivision and development servicing) and provincial legislation (BC Building Code, Land Title Act); any overnight stay in a recreation cabin qualifies it as “residential” under the BC Building Code.
Typically, Rossland-area parcels featuring cabins date from the mining era and many exist on what are old mining claims. Water supply and sanitary discharge are handled at each site on an informal ad hoc basis.
In order to accommodate existing recreation cabins and to field any applications to build more of them, staff initially placed the term “recreation cabin” in the definitions’ section of the then draft 2011 zoning bylaw, but did not add it as a permitted use to any of the zones.
The intent of including the definition “recreation cabin” was to provide a tool for a case-by-case fielding of applications for those both existing and proposed.
This approach was cautionary based upon the servicing challenges to siting these buildings in non -serviced areas and on parcels which did not abut a dedicated road.
Source: City of Rossland