City council is taking steps to prohibit asphalt plants in heavy industrial M2 zoning.
At its regular meeting on Oct. 14, council decided by a 5-2 vote to amend new draft zoning bylaw 2134 to prohibit asphalt processing as a permitted use in areas zoned for heavy industrial use.

Other heavy industrial uses of M2 zoning would still be permitted, including auto wrecking and storage, and the processing of wood products, concrete, rock, sand, gravel and ready-mix.

Council made its decision after discussing the issue during last Tuesday’s public hearing.

Coun. Kurt Christopherson initially brought the amendment to the forefront He told reporters outside council chambers after the council meeting that having an asphalt processing plant permitted within the city was an issue that generated a lot of public concern. Keeping that use in the bylaw could’ve led to the issue coming up yet again, he said.

“I’m not against industry or an asphalt plant, but let’s do it right,” Christopherson said.

Also at the council meeting, city staff recommended that council approve the third reading of the zoning bylaw. Instead, council rescinded the second reading in order to amend the bylaw to prohibit asphalt processing.

After the bylaw was amended, it passed second reading again and will go to another public hearing before the final reading.

During the public hearing, City of Merritt planning and development services manager Sean O’Flaherty said city council can add and subtract zoning uses with almost complete impunity.
Coun. Dave Baker suggested taking asphalt processing out of the M2 zoning altogether.

Chief administrative officer Allan Chabot told the Herald that if this change were adopted, there wouldn’t be anything to preclude a landowner from applying to amend zoning to permit asphalt processing on a specific piece of property.

Removing asphalt processing from the new zoning bylaw will allow council the ability to approve or deny an asphalt plant on a case-by-case basis.

Council returned the zoning bylaw from public hearing and Coun. Harry Kroeker made the motion to rescind second reading, which was carried by a 5 to 2 vote.

Council approved amending and rereading zoning bylaw 2134 and approved sending it to public hearing, again by the same 5-2 vote.

Mayor Susan Roline and Coun. Neil Menard were opposed removing asphalt processing in the zoning bylaw.

Bylaw stronger, simplified

Merritt’s new zoning bylaw eliminates the need for three zonings.

C8 (Neighbourhood Commercial) and C7 (Tourism Commercial) have been consolidated into C4 zoning, and P2 for churches has been consolidated into P3 zoning.

The bylaw was updated to reflect updates to provincial statutes and its definitions have been strengthened with the inclusion of diagrams, city planning and development services manager Sean O’Flaherty said at a public hearing on Oct. 14.

Some of the issues identified as needing attention included secondary suites, new vehicle parking standards and requirements, cargo container regulations and temporary storage facility regulations, O’Flaherty said.

The new zoning bylaw encourages front porches for houses, and allows for use of 60 per cent of lot coverage, whereas the current bylaw generally allows for 45 per cent.
In commercial areas, more parking regulations have been added, and residential housing is being allowed in some commercial zones.

One change under R3 (Medium Density Residential) zoning, O’Flaherty pointed out, is 60 dwellings per hectare are allowed under the new bylaw. That number is up from 40 in the current bylaw.

Sharing parking spaces between businesses and requiring new developments to provide new parking spaces are also new additions to the bylaw.

Davin Shillong, project manager with MMM Group, the company responsible for helping to rewrite the bylaw, said the new bylaw is the vehicle that drives the implementation of the city’s Official Community Plan.