City-wide Crisis Bylaw Amendments

When emergencies are declared or regional crises identified, and when senior government funding opportunities arise with set deadlines, the City's current land uses and standard processes for review and consultation can either prohibit or slow down support and response.

Some examples of how current land uses set out in the Zoning Bylaw could limit urgent response to Provincial and regional emergencies include:

  • The need to situate a cooling centre due to a heat wave, or an air centre due to extreme wildfire smoke, in a commercial building where institutional uses are not permitted;
  • The public health need to create a rapid testing or vaccination clinic or emergency care beds by repurposing an industrial warehouse;
  • A business need to relocate its sale of basic goods and groceries to an institutional or residential property in order to continue sales on an emergency basis, should the properly-zoned grocery store be compromised by an earthquake.

In any of the cases outlined above, there would not be sufficient time to pursue a site-specific zoning or even a temporary use permit to allow for these land uses.

When urgent situations arise - and when time-sensitive opportunities to respond (such as grants, etc.) are presented - it can be necessary for the City to expedite public consultation processes in order to respond. We recognize this is not an ideal approach, and want to take proactive measures now to consult the community on "pre-approving" specific land uses, with specific criteria, on all publicly-owned land.

Some general bylaw amendments could allow the City to respond more readily to time-sensitive needs relating to the current pandemic, the recent fires and heat waves, the overdose crisis, the homelessness crisis, and any other future crises. The Crisis Response Bylaw Amendments are proposed to include City-wide amendments to the Official Community Plan and zoning bylaw that would allow projects and land uses proposed in direct response to an identified crisis to proceed more rapidly. Any proposed projects would have to meet all of the four following criteria:

  1. The property/properties must be owned or under long-term lease by the City, by BC Housing, or by another public agency;
  2. The project(s) must be government agency funded;
  3. The project(s) must be non-profit society or public agency operated; and
  4. The project(s) must address needs identified through a BC Public Health Emergency Declaration; or a BC State of Emergency Declaration; or a crisis affecting the Metro Vancouver region that is publicly recognized by multiple member municipalities, including the City of New Westminster.

Even if / when a proposed project meets all of the criteria, there would still be an opportunity for public notification and comment. Where possible, future projects would follow the City's standard development review process. However, with the property already zoned there would be fewer steps in the review process. Future projects would also be subject to further Council approval. For projects on City-owned land, the City would still have the authority as landowner to approve and proceed with the proposed land use, including setting any appropriate conditions on the use (i.e. limiting the use to a specific time period).

It is anticipated that the Crisis Response Bylaw Amendments will be reviewed and considered for adoption during Fall-Winter 2021/2022.

Moving forward, New Westminster City Council has also directed that staff consider a high-level, multi-year public policy and public engagement project related to "social benefit land uses" more broadly. These additional potential land use changes would be broader in terms of types of use, and include privately-owned lands (including projects on lands owned by non-profit societies and faith organizations, even if they are slated to receive senior government funding). These potential additional land-use changes would be further explored starting in 2022.

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