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Sikh crematorium on Cowichan Lake Road lacks proper commercial zoning, judge rules
A commercial Sikh crematorium on Cowichan Lake Road lack proper regional zoning, and might be ordered to stop operating.
Supreme Court Justice Lance Bernard's ruling, issued Thursday, backs Cowichan Valley Regional District claims the commercial crematorium at 4695 Cowichan Lake Road — basically used by valley Sikhs — was not a permitted use under the region's P-1 (parks and institutional) zoning.
"The petitioners (Paldi Khalsa Diwan Society) have failed to establish that the commercial crematorium in question is a permitted use within zone P-1," Bernard says in his judgement concerning claims by the society and the CVRD.
CVRD chairman Rob Hutchins' statement signals the board had no problem with Sikh folks using the facility for traditional cremation.
"However, things changed dramatically for the local community when the facility began being used for commercial purposes," he states, noting the importance of upholding bylaws so neighbourhoods know what's allowed on various properties.
CVRD staff were awaiting word from B.C.'s Consumer Protection branch ordering the commercial crematorium to stop running, planner Rob Conway said Friday.
In past years, when the crematorium was used for Sikh religious purposes, the CVRD allowed use of wood or gas fuel, Conway noted.
To gain a branch licence to operate legally as a commercial business, the crematorium owners asked the CVRD for a letter basically saying the facility was compliant with zoning. The CVRD refused, Conway explained.
Justice Bernard states, "there is no basis to compel the respondent (CVRD) to provide the documentation Consumer Protection requires for the purpose of issuing a business licence to operate the crematorium as a commercial enterprise.
"I am satisfied a commercial crematorium is not permitted within zone P-1."
The region would have to create a new zone for the facility to run as a commercial venture, Conway explained.
Four Sikh societies and Cowichan Valley Crematorium Ltd., he explained, had applied for rezoning about two years ago — after being told by CVRD staff the crematorium had advanced to commercial use, from a simple religious function, without proper zoning.
The CVRD demanded the operation stop until zoning and other permits were gained.
However, the societies withdrew that application, and legal action followed in August 2012, Conway explained.
Legal cost to taxpayers were pending at press time.