News

Paldi commercial crematorium OK'ed by appeal court

A Paldi crematorium deemed by the CVRD as illegal under area zoning bylaws is allowed to operate, the B.C.’s Appeal Court ruled Tuesday.

Madam Justice Levine’s decision, backed by justices Garson and Stromberg-Stein, says “the use of Lot 1 as a crematorium is a permitted use within the P-1 zone of Area E (Cowichan Station-Sahtlam-Glenora), and the site and building plans for the crematorium, have been approved by or on behalf of the Cowichan Valley Regional District.”

The appeal court allowed an appeal by crematorium owners after a lower court ruled the facility was not allowed as a commercial business under the CVRD’s parks and institutional zone.

But the trio of appeal-court justices disagree.

“The crematorium was an institution,” Levine says of the crematorium largely serving Cowichan’s Sikh community, “that served public needs which is permitted in the zone.

“The bylaw did not distinguish between commercial and non-commercial institutions.”

Justice Levine also orders the CVRD board to provide a document confirming the facility is a permitted use under its bylaws, and that the site and building plans have been approved by or for the CVRD.

Legal bills of folks who appealed the lower court’s ruling are also to be paid by taxpayers, Levine says.

Those public costs were unavailable by press time Wednesday.

The complex appeal was launched by the Paldi, Lake Cowichan, and Vancouver Island Diwan societies, Vancouver Island Sikh Cultural Society, and Cowichan Valley Crematorium Ltd.

They claimed the crematorium was included in CVRD’s new P-1 zone created in 1998.

In 2010 the owners got a CVRD building permit to change the former wood-fired crematorium to gas-fired, then leased the operation to Cowichan Valley Crematorium Ltd.

That operator applied for a provincial licence to run a commercial crematorium, but needed a CVRD document basically saying the facility was allowed under its bylaws and plans had a CVRD nod.

The operator eventually got its provincial permit, and the CVRD learned some 200 cremations had been done by January 2011.

May 2011 saw the owners apply for CVRD rezoning to run the facility as a business.

After a November 2011 public rezoning hearing, the owners pulled their application, believing the crematorium was a permitted use.

By February 2012, the CVRD’s lawyers said use of the old and new facilities for public worship during cremations was allowed under its zoning — but commercial use not associated with religious services was banned.

May 31, 2012, saw the owners ordered to stop all non-religious commcrcial uses.

Eventually, Victoria suspended the crematorium’s licence until basically getting a CVRD document proving the CVRD had or had not been consulted before Victoria issued the crematorium’s commercial licence.

That suspension was pending the appeal court’s outcome.

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