Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Municipal councils – Municipalities – Building permits – By-laws – Planning and zoning – Remedies – Mandamus – Judicial review – Failure to provide reasons – Standard of review – Correctness
Yearsley v. White Rock (City),  B.C.J. No. 1102, 2009 BCSC 719, British Columbia Supreme Court, May 29, 2009, J.R. Dillon J.
The Petitioners are owners of a property in White Rock which is occupied by a 2-storey commercial building. They applied for a development permit proposing to replace the existing building with a 6-storey commercial/residential building. The property was in a location zoned Marine Commercial/Residential and the application met all of the zoning requirements, including those for height. The Respondent, Corporation of the City of White Rock, refused to issue the development permit following a public meeting where several public speakers expressed concerns about the 6-storey height of the proposed building, about it not fitting into the form and character of the surrounding area, and about approval of the development setting a precedent for the area. Height was not an allowable consideration within the Official Community Plan (“OCP”) for White Rock and the proposed building was within the height requirements of zoning and OCP guidelines. After being notified of the permit refusal, the Petitioners sought a declaration that White Rock’s decision was of no force and effect and an order in the nature of mandamus requiring White Rock to issue the permit.
The Court granted both Orders. The Court found that White Rock exceeded its jurisdiction by taking into account irrelevant and/or extraneous criteria outside of the bylaws and OCP guidelines in refusing to issue the development permit. Reliance on public opinion was not a relevant consideration if it was not linked to legitimate factors within the zoning bylaw or the OCP. City Council acted to refuse the application because of unspecified, vague concerns that were not referenced in the OCP, including implied concerns about height, regardless that the proposed building was within the height requirements of zoning and OCP guidelines. The failure by Council to give the Petitioners adequate reasons suggested that it could not give reasons because it was known height was not a proper consideration. Therefore the decision to refuse the permit was quashed and an order of mandamus that White Rock issue the development permit was made.
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