Revelstoke Unified Development Bylaw quietly ditched
Revelstoke city council has quietly killed the Unified Development Bylaw (UDB) – an ambitious overhaul of the city’s patchwork of zoning bylaws into a modern, unified system.
Work on the UDB began in 2010, and included public open houses, input sessions and work by an outside consultancy.
The demise of the UDB, however, was much less public; there was no standalone website with YouTube videos and interactive graphics – in fact, there was no announcement at all.
A Feb. 15 city report by planning director John Guenther outlines the steps to proceed with zoning changes on an independent basis, noting the demise of the UDB.
“Council struggled with this one,” Guenther said in an interview with the Times Review. “It was seen as being too complicated.”
Although Guenther is now making plans to move ahead without the UDB, he said it wasn’t all for not.
“80 per cent of the UDB was the zoning bylaw,” Guenther said. “That’s still moving ahead. We figure it’s about 80 per cent done. The bulk of the UDB as far as the zoning is concerned is still moving ahead.” He noted the land use bylaw was completed in 2012.
Several bylaws will now be removed from the propose UDB. They include unsightly premises bylaw, the building bylaw, the sign bylaw and the subdivision bylaw. “We’re just going to administer them differently,” Guenther said.
Subdivision and street standards elements of the bylaw will be segmented into portions and will be presented to council separately.
One of the elements of the UDB not going forward is a combined administration and enforcement sections. The aim was to better coordinate administration of development. The bylaw sought to streamline administration processes involving city departments such as planning, fire services and engineering. “That part gets left out,” Guenther said.
Guenther said the ‘forms-based approach’ is still moving forward. That prominent portion of the bylaw guides development based more on their form and look, instead of a set of prescriptive rules that dictate heights, lengths, setbacks and other rules.
The planning department will now work to complete the new zoning bylaw (ZB). At their Mar. 12 meeting, city council approved a timeline for the proposed zoning bylaw targeting adoption by October, 2013.
Mayor David Raven said council had concerns about the UDB. “It’s a unique form of planning” Raven said. “Over the last year we’ve watched the timelines slide, so that it became in our minds and overly complex and untried process.”
He said they were concerned about legal challenges and a risk of uncertainty for development.
Despite the formal end of the UDB, Raven felt it had been a worthwhile learning process, and the city continued to benefit from it.
So, why did the city embark on the UDB in the first place?
Raven said the resort development and the subsequent OCP overhaul highlighted a need to modernize the city’s zoning bylaws. The UDB was “innovative and creative,” Raven said. “However, at the end of the day this became overly complex, expensive and challenging to implement.”
Neither Raven nor Guenther could put a price tag on the UDB. City finance director Graham Inglis is away from the office.
The cost of the UDB included consultants’ fees and other costs, they said.
The Times Review will follow up on the final tally of the abandoned effort.
UPDATE: Mar. 13, 4:40 p.m.
According to City of Revelstoke finance department records, the total payments to UDB consultants Placemakers totalled $124,318. A finance department representative said additional direct expenses related to the UDB was $1,900, for a total of $126,218. This total does not include the cost of city staff time.