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City updating guidelines for heritage protection in Townsite

POWELL RIVER, B.C. – The City of Powell River’s planning department is putting the finishing touches on developing the Development Permit Area (DPA) for Townsite.

The city is considering the creation of a new DPA for single and two-family homes in the Townsite.

According to a city release, the DPA would complement the existing DPA 4: Townsite Mixed Use Area, by providing heritage form and character guidelines.

In a DPA, homeowners obtain a “development permit” before a building permit when making significant external changes to their home, such as building an addition. This way, a development permit makes sure that new construction and renovations fit in with the existing neighbourhood character.

A public event has been planned from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26, upstairs at the Townsite Mall, where city planning department staff will report back what has been heard so far from people in the community about the draft DPA guidelines.

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The city’s senior planner, Daniella Fergusson, said the revised version of those guidelines will be shared with Townsite and interested residents, in order to put any finishing touches on the document before the planning department goes to City Council for its approval.

This is the second such event to be held in the Townsite.

Last September, a drop-in event was held at the Townsite Mall to share information and gather feedback on the Townsite DPA. As well as outlining the draft DPA, a survey was distributed to seek public input into the DPA.

Fergusson said that similar to last time, there will be some boards that illustrate and explain what’s been heard and what’s been done with the suggestions. There will be handouts of the draft guidelines, as well.

“The draft guidelines have been gone through extensively,” Fergusson said. “For example, people wanted more clarity about the requirements for new construction versus existing buildings, so we made that more clear. We also heard that people thought that landscaping plans and requirements were too onerous, so we’ve taken those out.”

Fergusson said she thinks there is strong support for protecting the heritage character of Townsite.

“It’s been great working with everyone. That’s why we are going to come back out into the public and determine whether we’re heading in the right direction before heading back to Council. The community is involved in shaping the document in a hands-on way.”

Fergusson said the DPA is the first step in a longer heritage protection work plan in Townsite.

“Protecting our heritage character is great for our local economy and it’s something we can be proud of here in our community,” she said.

“Once we get the guidelines finalized, we can start looking at the next steps, like a heritage commission, streetscape improvements, homeowner grants and those sorts of tools for heritage and Townsite.”

Fergusson said that as a new person to Powell River, “it’s great to know there is so much expertise in the community regarding the history of the buildings, as well as from the stewards of those buildings – the people in the community – regarding what they’d like to see. ”

“There’s already such great work happening,” Fergusson said. “Individuals in the community are going back and restoring their homes by themselves. We definitely want to keep encouraging that. Having guidelines and assistance for them moving forward in a cohesive way is going to be great for the community.”

The intention is to draw a large number of people out to the Feb. 26 event.

Roughly 50 people turned out to the first public event regarding the DPA this past September and there were approximately 100 survey responses filled out.

Fergusson said there are about 400 single family residences in Townsite, so the hope is that even greater numbers will attend the second session to reveal the DPA evolution.

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