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By: Korie Marshall

Most people don’t understand the difference between an official community plan and a zoning bylaw, and really, why would most people care? It’s not the sort of thing you think about in your daily life. But it is sad when misunderstandings and different expectations for the future of a neighbourhood start to rip a community apart.

A local entrepreneur has an idea, a way to make some money and hire some local people. He finds a spot that could work for what they want to do. There are some surrounding properties where the uses might not jive, but hey, there are a few places where that applies in the valley, a few weird things you wouldn’t think should be next door to each other. We seem to make it work here, and we need business, and jobs, right? So then why would someone next door be upset?

I could be talking about the recent temporary use application by Valemount Stone Company, or the rezoning application last year by Robson Valley construction, or a number of other contentious issues in the area over the last few years. I like that people are trying to find ways to do business, and especially that they are employing local people, or providing services that we need locally. But it is really hard on someone who is negatively impacted by a business, and I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss their concerns.

It seems like noise, traffic, dust, safety and visual quality issues are often the big concerns when industrial-type businesses move in or expand near residential areas. It’s not like we can go back in time and either change the zoning or the old community plan; nor is it simple to tell one party or the other that you can’t continue to do what you’ve been doing here. And really, that is what the Regional District board may have to do in these cases – either tell one or the other that they can’t continue, or else help them find some middle ground. Middle ground usually means no one is totally happy.

But I’ve noticed in these processes that there are a lot of questions from people about the rules, about what zoning means, about what the community plan says and what it means, about even what it means to get a temporary use permit, or to get a property rezoned, and how that affects neighbouring properties. It can be really complex. I know when I bought my first property I knew nothing about such things, and I believed, like most people, that when you buy something, it’s yours to do what you want with. But I realize more and more that there is not much that actually belongs to me in that sense. There are rules and regulations that apply to just about everything these days. I think the more we know about these things, the more we understand the reasons behind them, and the better we can get along with our neighbours. Some of that responsibility is on us, but I think our governments can help make things easy for us to understand, and easy to find.