CVRD legal opinion nixes temporary use permit for Cowichan farm

A temporary use permit to process gravel at Balme Ayr Farm will not be issued, the Cowichan Valley Regional District board decided at a special meeting Wednesday afternoon, but the reason has nothing to do with directors’ opposition to the idea.

A final decision on the permit application was put off after tempers flared at an electoral area services committee meeting and concerned CVRD staff sought a legal opinion on the validity of a vote taken there that would have quashed the permit.

Interim CVRD Chief Administrative Officer Frank Raimondo revealed the results of the legal consultation to a full public gallery Wednesday.

The CVRD’s lawyers found no serious procedural errors, Raimondo said, in spite of a dialogue that got "discourteous" and "rude", and the committee had the right to reject the application. The principles of natural justice, he reported, do not apply in such a case.

However, Raimondo, continued, the CVRD’s lawyers did find a more far-reaching flaw, stating that a temporary use permit cannot be issued per the CVRD’s official community plan.

Thus this is not the end of the topic of TUPs, Raimondo said, as the regional district has inadvertantly issued several temporary use permits in error.

In light of this news, the board voted unanimously to return Balme Ayr Farm’s application and application fee.

Director Lori Iannidinardo questioned how much the legal opinion had cost taxpayers. Raimondo said he would let her know when a bill has been received.

"All things considered, I think it was money well spent," said Area E Director Loren Duncan.

Members of the public were not so magnanimous.

A neighbouring farmer questioned how CVRD staff could have proceeded for over a year, saying that the district could issue a TUP, when it wasn’t true.

"This is something that cannot happen on this property or any other agricultural zoned property," he said. "It’s ludicrous to think that we’ve gone through all of this."

"How can they not review this specifically with legal staff until over a year has passed, the stress and strain on many, many people, taxpayers wasted so much time and people like Gerry Giles, Lori [Iannidinardo] having meetings and discussions, going out to a property that doesn’t qualify from day one? Why are we even talking about an application that is inappropriate and illegal? Why didn’t you just turn it away at the door?" he asked.

Dara Quast echoed his frustration, questioning how it is that members of the public, who have been asserting that a TUP isn’t legal under the circumstances for some time, could correctly interpret the bylaws and staff didn’t.

Raimondo said these are all good questions and staff will be doing a review.