Beaconsfield changes approach to minor derogation rules

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Carmen Marie Fabio

 

A by-law to amend existing regulations for minor derogations was nearly unanimously approved at the April 28 Beaconsfield council meeting with the exception of one dissenting vote com- ing from District 4 Councillor Pierre Demers.

 

“The provincial land-use act is giv- ing the power to municipalities to grant minor exemptions to properties on zoning by-laws and lot subdivision by-laws,” said Director of Urban Plan- ning Denis Chabot, “except for two elements – usage zoning from com- mercial to residential, and also the density of an area.”

 

Everything else under zoning and subdivision by-laws can go through minor exemption re- quests. Chabot said that traditionally in Beaconsfield, allowable minor exemptions were limited to about 10 elements such as set-backs for houses. 

 

“Council is proposing to modify this by-law to open and give the possibility to grant minor exemptions to anything inside the guidance of the law.”

 

Beaconsfield resident and former District 6 Councillor Rhonda Massad asked what the purpose of going through the permit process was if the ultimate decision was open to council adjustment.

 

“It’s not a question of adjusting as we go along,” said Chabot. “It’s to use the tool of the minor exemption to help the citizens to do a project on a property if it doesn’t have too much of an impact on neighbouring properties, for example.”

 

When Massad asked who determines how any projects impact neighbouring properties, Chabot said a grid of analysis exists and is overseen by the planning advisory committee that makes recommendations which are sent to council for final approval.

 

Massad asked if any potentially affected neighbours would have a say in the matter and Chabot described the process that would advertise any requests in the local newspapers stating the elements of the derogation.

 

“Citizens can come and talk to council on their position,” said Chabot, “or they can even write a letter prior to the decision.”

 

When Massad further asked what impact a citizen’s position has, or, in effect, which citizen wins, Chabot said it will depend on the minor derogation’s impact, agreeing that it’s a widening of the minor exemptions program but pointed out it will always be within the 

framework of the law.

 

The proposal was met with some in attendance suggesting that it will set a precedent for a number of exemption requests.

 

District 6 Councillor Peggy Alexopoulos said council is not looking to change any laws. “We’re taking a lot of the responsibility from the administration (who) are the first step when a citizen comes to the city. We’re just taking more responsibility as a council and we’re going to be using common sense and the guidelines to help us decide.”

 

Under the previous procedure, any request would typically go through the Urban Planning Committee which would then make recommendations to council. But Alexopoulos said that sometimes, the resident waiting right outside the door may sway the deci- sion in a way council would not have necessarily voted. 

 

Councillor Demers, who also heads the Urban Planning Committee, voted against the motion saying,

 

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The existing by-laws are in place and are being enforced by the administration. If the council doesn’t like how a by-law is enacted or enforced, it has the power to change it. The applications of said by-law should still fall under the administration.”

 

A public consultation will be held May 26 at 7:30 p.m. and adoption of the by-law at the June 16 monthly council meeting.

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