A Shoreacres man trying to sell a property says his real estate deal has fallen through — and he blames the Regional District of Central Kootenay.
Ken Hillstead says the sale is off because the RDCK zoning for his property doesn’t match its zoning listing on the regional district’s website.
“I just found out we don’t have a sale, now I’m looking at what went wrong,” he says. “Now they are saying I have to start all over again.”
Hillstead’s real estate agent, Joni Askew, agrees something strange went wrong.
“Poor Ken,” says Askew, who’s with Fair Realty in Castlegar. “He has jumped through so many hoops on that property. They made sure everything was done properly. It’s a very odd situation.”
Hillstead has owned the 1.6-acre property on Kelly Drive for 40 years. In the early ‘90s a hydro right-of-way was punched through the property. One piece of the remaining property was zoned commercial, the other residential. The commercial segment of the land has two residential buildings on it, and a mobile home court occupies the other.
Over the years Hillstead has done additions and upgrades to both properties, all with RDCK permits and inspections, and no issue was ever raised about the zoning, he says. Even the RDCK’s online land-use map shows the two pieces of the property zoned differently.
Then late last year Hillstead went to sell the land. The property was listed at $319,000.
But when the purchaser went to confirm the zoning, they were told the entire property — both segments — were actually zoned commercial. They were also told the buildings on the commercial property were non-conforming and could not be used to house people after the sale.
“This poor woman wanted to buy it desperately and provide much-needed rentals to the area,” says Askew. “And she was going to upgrade the suites, clean up the buildings, make them beautiful on the outside.”
Hillstead is frustrated by the paperwork snafu.
“I didn’t mess with the zoning, they messed with the zoning, their database says it’s changed,” says Hillstead. “Now I’m sitting here, we lost a sale … of the property, and now they are threatening to sanction me because I’m not zoned right.”
“They are coming back to say the zoning we thought we had isn’t there, and the apartment has to be taken out. They told the new purchaser they were going to put a cease-and-desist order on the apartment.”
RDCK says property
But an official with the RDCK says while there seems to be some paperwork misplaced in regards to the property’s zoning history, the owner is obligated to know the official zoning of their land.
“It is a C-1 zone,” says Nelson Wight, a planning manager with the RDCK.
“It looks like there was a mapping error [on the RDCK’s website],” he says. “We believe there was a mistake on the website, so we’re investigating and getting the records lined up so it reflects what we believe to be true.”
The RDCK mapping tool carries a disclaimer on the page that the information is not official.
Wight provided the Castlegar News with a copy of a 1981 zoning map that does show the property to be split zoned. But by a 2004 rezoning, it was all designated C-1, says Wight.
“I’m still seeking the details of when that change occurred,” he says. “It appears it was done because of the subdivision, and would have been done as part of a change to the zoning bylaw for a broader purpose, not specific to this site.
“Sometimes this can happen, where we want to clean up zoning boundaries that better align with property boundaries. It’s not uncommon to hang onto them and do them all at the same time.”
But Wight notes the portion where the residences are, and where there is a debate about the use, has always been zoned C1. “There’s never been a change there,” he notes.
Wight, who’s new to the RDCK, says there’s just no record of building permits being issued for the extra units on the commercial property. Those permits would allow the units to be grandfathered in.
“That would be a way we could confidently say, whether rightly or wrongly, if sanctioned by this department in the past, we would recognize that,” he says. “If there was a building permit that said ‘yes, there are two or three residential units,’ we would be bound by that, whether it was a mistake or not. And I’m not seeing a record of that.”
In any event, Wight says it’s important for landowners to consult with the RDCK if they have any questions about their zoning. And get a comfort letter — a record search confirming your property’s zoning.
“Do your research, come see us, use our services, that’s what we are here for,” he says. “We can help you understand the zoning regulations that might apply. It’s part of our job.”
And Wight says Hillstead can always seek to rezone the property.
“If you wish to pursue a certain activity that you aren’t entitled to under your current zone, apply to rezone it and we will provide assistance to help you through the application.”
But that doesn’t wash with Hillstead.
“How many other people are looking at these maps, and relying on them to have some form of accuracy, and making decisions to buy based on them?” he asks. He says he’s been told it could take $5,000 to get the zoning changed at this point.
“They should have the records. They don’t have one, they are all over the place, they can’t find stuff, it’s gone missing,” he says. “The incompetence is horrific.”