With a judge’s decision to allow BC Housing to respond to the petition against the rezoning for Parksville’s 222 Corfield supportive housing project, the court case is back to square one.
According to Supreme Court Justice Robin A. Baird, in his decision allowing BC Housing and the Provincial Rental Housing Corporation to become respondents on Dec. 27, the petitioners must re-file their petition (which questions the legality of the city’s rezoning bylaw process), allowing BC Housing 21 days to respond.
The petitioners’ lawyer, however, said his clients hope the parties can come to a resolution outside of court. The City of Parksville and the petitioners’ first attempt at such a deal was described as “decidedly offside” by Baird.
“We respect the judge’s opinion,” said the petitioners’ lawyer, Mark Sager, referring to Baird’s decision to make BC Housing a respondent.
“Our clients were surprised that BC Housing wanted to continue, because there’s been some very productive discussions going on between all the different parties to try and come up with a win-win for the whole community, for everybody, for BC Housing, for citizens of Parksville, for the person building the seniors housing next door to this proposed facility,” he said.
In Baird’s reasoning for making BC Housing a respondent to the petition, he said “Such an approach, on the facts as I appreciate them, would have been decidedly offside. The issues raised in the petition must be fully and publicly aired.
“The applicants (BC Housing and the Provincial Rental Housing Corporation) are in a good position to defend the bylaw if the city is no longer willing to do it. I see no reason why they should not, in the midst of their efforts, make full and productive use of the evidence already filed by city employees to the effect that there was no procedural irregularity or unfairness involved in the enactment of the amending bylaw.”
Meanwhile, Sager emphasized that he and his clients hope for a “positive resolution” out of court.
In Baird’s background on the case, he notes how the city took a “firm position in defence of the validity of the amending bylaw,” describing “in considerable detail the city’s fulfilment of all legally binding notice and procedural requirements before and during the public meeting.”
The firm position changed to “unexplained capitulation” shortly after, with a new council at the city’s helm.
“They (the city) are prepared to consent to an order quashing the amending bylaw. They have not given reasons for this decision. Importantly, however, the city has never conceded there was anything improper or defective in the process leading to the amending bylaw’s adoption and enactment.”
While the court case questions only the legality of the city’s bylaw amendment process (before and during its public hearing) and not the Corfield project itself, Sager said: “everybody recognizes the value and the need of more affordable housing for people in need… I think it’s fair to say everybody respects that desire, and it’s simply a matter of having facilities side-by-side that are compatible in nature and don’t cause unnecessary problems for anybody.”