Living/Working November 4, 2022


November 4, 2022

Lawsuit of the week: Short-term rental operators sue Sechelt over land use regulations

A group of property owners is taking the District of Sechelt to court to overturn new amendments to the municipality’s business licence bylaw that they say unlawfully restricts them from offering their secondary homes as short-term rentals  

In a petition filed in BC Supreme Court on Oct. 20, landowners Ben Lin Zeng, Gary Bearchell, Greg Bellamy, Shawn Deveau, Erin Frizzell, Emma Goodman, Tracey Jackson and Kate Newstead claim the District of Sechelt overstepped its authority when its council adopted the new bylaws at meetings in September and October 2022.

The group claims they use their properties “on a part-time basis as a secondary residence, with their principal residence being elsewhere.” 

According to the petition, each of the petitioners had existing business licences to operate their short-term rentals, which had to be renewed every year under Sechelt’s zoning and business licence bylaws. The new amendments, however, restricted short-term rentals to an owner’s “principal residence” and limited the number of licences an individual can have to two, while also requiring that short-term rental operators get a temporary use permit for secondary residences.

The petitioners claim that the district’s zoning rules permit short-term rentals, but the amendments create “two classes” of short-term rentals in Sechelt and wrongfully give residents preference over non-residents. Requiring people to get a temporary-use permit for secondary residences under its zoning bylaw “creates a distinction between classes of owners: Those who reside in Sechelt and those who do not.

“Sechelt has no authority to designate, through its zoning bylaw, a zone based on ownership and, more specifically, cannot zone property based on discrimination between classes of owners,” the petition states. 

For the district’s council to use residency as a condition to get approved for a temporary use permit, the petitioners claim, “is prohibited at law.” Municipalities under B.C.’s Local Government Act, according to the petition, aren’t allowed to use business licence bylaws to dictate how lands and buildings are used. In addition, city governments can’t “prohibit” or “undermine” the use of a property under a provision allowing for “lawful non-conforming use” that conformed to the older bylaw regime. 

The district’s business licence bylaw, in other words, is wrongfully prohibiting “otherwise lawful businesses,” namely short-term rentals at secondary residences even though they comply with Sechelt’s “building, zoning, health, sanitation and business bylaws.” 

Furthermore, the petitioners claim it’s impossible to comply with the district’s bylaws because people aren’t permitted to both operate short-term rentals in secondary homes while complying with its new business licensing rules. In effect, the petitioners claim the District of Sechelt is illegally trying to regulate the use of their properties with the new business licence bylaw amendments. 

The group seeks declarations that the amendments to the business licence bylaw are beyond the district’s authority and an order prohibiting the municipality from using residency as a condition to issue temporary-use permits for short-term rentals in secondary properties. The petition’s factual basis has not been tested in court, and the District of Sechelt had not responded to the case by press time. 


Professor seeds fresh approach to learning with STEM high school

Mike Gelbart has made what many would consider a high-risk, mid-career, head-scratching move. He, of course, sees it differently. He, at this stage, sees it correctly, too.

Gelbart has walked away from a tenured associate professor of teaching role in the computer science department at the University of British Columbia – arguably as good as it gets in his cohort in the academy, a leading-edge program at a Tier One institution – to launch a modest high school ultimately with immodest ambition.

VISST, the Vancouver Independent School for Science and Technology, opened in September with 16 students – eight girls, eight boys – in Grades 8 and 9. It will take them and others into Grades 10, 11 and 12 in the years ahead in an experiential, highly conceptual, but clearly applied form of learning as the city’s only dedicated STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) high school. Gelbart is both a principal in founding and a principal in operating.

His idea had been percolating for nearly a decade, owing in part to what he was inheriting in the classroom from schools he felt hadn’t adequately prepared students and a system that had ceased its honours programs, and he buckled down on it in early 2019. 

He took a leave from the university (and has submitted his resignation for year’s end, so there is no turning back) to create a school he believes can impart not only knowledge but self-knowledge in its students. He and partner Shaun Olafson, who founded a successful early-childhood program in Vancouver derived from the Montessori and Reggio practices, have eschewed salaries for the time being to pursue their vision. They hope not to need a 10-figure runway – “time will tell,” Gelbart says – but early indications are they won’t.

The province helped shape the framework they could then adapt.

A $25,000 donation from Teck Resources for innovative technology equipment also helped. In its first year there are four staff, three of them teaching (Gelbart, science teacher Paloma Corvalan and humanities teacher Linda Edworthy).

Even at their young age, students are treated as a business would respect its best customers, so they understand why they’re being taught what they’re being taught, how it might apply in their lives to help them solve real-world problems. It is a world somewhat removed from hundreds of tests and homework assignments, but it still carries the gravitas of a curriculum that meets and exceeds standards – just on a different path. 

Students carry responsibilities in the school, organizing some learning opportunities by reaching into the community, keeping the 5,500-square-foot facility clean, watering the plants and so on. It carries a communal vibe but also confers a leadership role across functions.

There is another important distinction that schools ought to have learned generations ago with young people, education outcomes and their biorhythms: Classes start at 10 a.m.

It is, as Gelbart puts it, a “more transparent” education in which parents and students are truer partners. Very interestingly, that transparency extends into its approach on tuition and the school’s overall business model. 

For instance, where some independent schools encourage applications that require income information, only to turn down (and discourage) students from lower-income families due to limited funds, VISST accepts a student before understanding a family’s means.

Parents can calculate online what VISST would charge based on family income and net worth. It ranges anywhere from zero to $23,400. (For those with greater income and holdings, tuition is based on a formula of 6.5 per cent of gross family income above $40,000 and 0.6 per cent of net worth of assets individually worth at least $20,000 and totalling more than $200,000, to a maximum $23,400.) The school aims for per-student revenue of about $16,000, which covers most of the $18,000 in expenses. The province provides $3,300 per domestic student. 

Rachel Rose has a 14-year-old son at VISST. The attraction for her family was a school “where gifted children could work at their full capacity and not be held back by rigid bureaucratic requirements” and “where various kinds of intelligence and personality (introverts, extroverts) were equally welcome.

“We also were looking for an independent school that was open to families from a wide range of income brackets, not just the affluent.”

She says her son never truly engaged in school – smart, but putting in time, never enthusiastic. “To see this emerge for the first time in his 14 years is truly wonderful,” she reports.

The literature has been clear: For students of all ages, the pandemic has proven to be a speed bump impeding their successes. The amount of “missed learning” from remote education and the on-and-off classroom restrictions have made for a difficult two years. 

Education in the coronavirus has compounded what were already serious concerns about the financial state and pedagogical experience of our public elementary and secondary school system in providing a competitive learning experience. The panic in Ontario over keeping schools open after such tumult, and the willingness of the Doug Ford government to invoke the constitutional notwithstanding clause on its labour dispute pre-emptively to do so, should suggest public concerns leave little margin for further disruption. These concerns have noteworthy effects on learning in the strategically significant fields for our country of mathematics and science, on the underrepresentation in these faculties of young women, with a particular blow to students in lower-income families. Canada has challenges across these metrics, and no matter how we pride ourselves on good and free public education, independent schools will have an important place – especially if, like VISST, their values consciously engage those needs. 

Kirk LaPointe is publisher and editor-in-chief of BIV and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.


Stanley Park's Bright Nights returns, but without its popular Christmas train

However, Santa's workshop will be back for the first time since 2019

The 25th Bright Lights will be lighting up Stanley Park, but the Christmas Train won't be running in 2022 | Photo: Stanley Park Railway/Facebook

The 25th edition of Bright Lights will keep Stanley Park lit this winter, but the much-loved Christmas Train won't be running.

The annual event and fundraiser — it's the single largest fundraising event for the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund — will open on Dec. 1 and run until Jan. 1, 2023. At the event, people will find all sorts of displays, including a vintage fire truck, giant reindeer, and a tunnel of lights.

However, the miniature train that usually runs through the displays won't be taking to the tracks this year. The train is currently being assessed after an inspection by Technical Safety BC earlier this fall.

“This is a cherished tradition for many folks in Vancouver, and although it’s disappointing the trains can’t be a part of this year’s event due to technical challenges, we’re committed to helping create the best possible holiday experience with our partners,” says the park board's Steve Jackson in a press release.

While the trains won't be back, the barn at the site will once again be turned into Santa's workshop; the last time that happened was 2019. There's also going to be food (with churros, pretzels, popcorn, Chimney Cakes and hot chocolate all on the menu) and live entertainment.

“Countless firefighters have put in a lot of effort and thought into this year’s set up, and we can’t wait to see how it looks!" Jackson says. "We know this year’s Bright Nights will still bring joy to families and we encourage folks to come and donate for an important cause.”

Firefighters will also be greeting people to Bright Nights.

Entrance is by donation. Since 1998 the park board has donated $2.5 million to the Burn Fund via the Bright Nights events. It'll be closed on Monday, Dec. 5, Tuesday, Dec. 6, and Sunday, Dec. 25.

Bright Nights in Stanley Park

When: Dec. 1, 2022 to Jan. 1, 2023 from 4-10 p.m.

Where: Stanley Park Railway, Vancouver

Entrance: By donation

Vancouver Is Awesome



You can take a bus from Vancouver to Abbotsford airport to take advantage of ultra-cheap flights

Some flights to popular Canadian cities and sun-drenched vacation destinations cost a fraction of the price out of Abbotsford

Two travellers can visit Mazatlán in Mexico with four nights hotel and direct, return flights from YXX airport in Abbotsford for only $480.75 including taxes and fees per person | Photo: Cinthia Aguilar/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Two of Canada's budget airlines offer low-cost flights out of the Lower Mainland that cost a fraction of the price to the same destinations.

But there's a catch: travellers have to fly out of Abbotsford International Airport (YXX).

While it isn't as inconvenient as crossing the border to catch a flight, it isn't exactly a close connection for city dwellers (folks living in the heart of downtown Vancouver, for example). 

That said, some of the jaw-dropping deals and vacation packages might make you reconsider the Fraser Valley option. 

For example, last-minute tickets to Edmonton out of YXX dropped down to only $7 including all taxes and fees for a one-way, direct flight as part of a Flair sale. During this same time period, one-way tickets departing out of Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to Edmonton started at prices over $100 CAD. 

Similarly, Swoop, WestJet's discount carrier, offers a plethora of deals to sun-drenched destinations as part of its "Getaways" offers that include flights and accommodation. To take advantage of any of them, however, travellers can only depart out of YXX. 

Currently, two travellers can visit Mazatlán with four nights hotel and direct, return flights for only $480.75 including taxes and fees per person. 

Travel from Canada across North America out of YXX using Ebus

There is a bus that takes travellers from Vancouver to the YXX airport called Ebus. A one-way transfer costs about $46.82 and there are several departures throughout the day. 


Photo via Ebus

Travellers will be picked up from Vancouver's Pacific Central Station, located at 1150 Station St., and they will ride the bus for just under one-and-a-half hours (depending on traffic) to Abbotsford. They are dropped off outside of the main terminal entrance at YXX in Abbotsford. 

Previously, travellers were able to take advantage of a shuttle service called Reliable Bus, which carried passengers directly from Burrard Station for $60 return. Unfortunately, the service has been temporarily suspended.

Vancouver Is Awesome



Over one million bulbs are set to dazzle visitors at return of VanDusen Festival of Lights

Here's everything you need to know

The Festival of Lights returns for 2022 to Vancouver's VanDusen Botanical Gardens | Photo: VanDusen Botanical Garden / Facebook

Fans of VanDusen spectacles may have been disappointed when the botanical gardens didn't break out the lights for Glow in the Garden this Halloween, but they can rest assured that the Festival of Lights will be back in time for Christmas.

The annual festive labyrinth will return Nov. 25 and run until Jan. 2. It's anticipated that the installation will use over one million lights to embellish 15 acres of garden from the Laburnum Walk, to the Rose Garden, and Japanese Maples.

Old favourite displays will be returning such as the Dancing Lights on Livingston Lake, while VanDusen is also welcoming a new feature: the Glacial Passage. This indoor installation is set to brighten the hallway that leads guests to an arctic lounge with artisanal icy treats.

Make-A-Wish Canada is the event's charitable partner for the 21st year and the Park Board has set a fundraising goal of $60,000. Donations can be made at the Scottish Shelter in the park, where people can also light candles.

Tickets are available now and must be pre-purchased for a designated entry time. Visitors are encouraged to book early.

VanDusen Festival of Lights

When: Nov. 25,2022–Jan. 2, 2023 from 4-10 p.m. 

Where: VanDusen Botanical Gardens - 5251 Oak St., Vancouver

Cost: $21 for adults, $15.50 for youth and seniors, $11 for children (ages 5 to 12).

Vancouver Is Awesome



What are we reading? November 3, 2022

Photo: Nora Carol Photography, Moment, Getty Images

Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.


Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

News flash: Optimism on the climate change front driven primarily by renewable energy price drops and a global political mobilization to shift away from fossil fuels – New York Times Magazine


Leave it to the Scots to embrace the benefits of rewilding. Their country could be on track to become the world's first genuinely rewilded nation. Considering that Scotland was down to having a mere five per cent of its land mass forested at the turn of the 20th century, a movement to return the other 95 per cent to the country's once rich and diverse flora and fauna should be applauded and promoted - National Geographic


If you enjoyed The Shipping News, you might want to consider digesting Annie Proulx's detour into non-fiction (Fen, Bog and Swamp). It's her contribution to the climate action cause and the critical value of the world's rapidly disappearing wetlands – Vogue


Glen Korstrom, reporter:

The U.K. now having its youngest prime minister in modern times made me look into its youngest-ever PM: William Pitt, the Younger.

I expected that the youngest-ever U.K. PM might have been just a quirk of history and a short tenure. Instead, I learned that Pitt spent two separate terms as PM: one for 18 years and the other for two years, up until his death in 1806, at the age of 46. This detailed article gives good context to his life and the issues he dealt with as PM. – Encyclopedia Brittanica


Those who like journalism news might find this story interesting. A reporter who broke a story about vandalism then had police accuse him of committing the crime. It “beggars belief,” according to a journalism professor. – Toronto Star