Administrative law – Decisions reviewed – Municipal Board – By-laws – Planning and zoning – Judicial review – Appeals – Compliance with legislation – Standard of review – Correctness

E.Z. Automotive Ltd. v. Regina (City), [2021] S.J. No. 328, 2021 SKCA 109, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, August 12, 2021, N.W. Caldwell, B. Barrington-Foote and J.A. Tholl JJ.A.

E.Z. Automotive Ltd. (“EZ”) is the owner of two properties in the City of Regina (the “City”) where it operated an autobody repair business. EZ stored junked vehicles on its property. The City found that EZ was operating a salvage yard in contravention of the Zoning Bylaw and ordered EZ to cease operations.

EZ’s appeal to the City’s Development Appeals Board was dismissed with the condition that the City specify the number of junked vehicles that could remain on the properties. Both the City and EZ appealed the Board decision to the Planning Appeals Committee (PAC) of the Saskatchewan Municipal Board. The PAC allowed the City’s appeal and reinstated the order without conditions.

The court determined that there was an internal standard of review that engaged an assessment of the governing legislation and by conducting a full exercise in statutory interpretation. Considering the PAC was reviewing the Board’s decision for error, the PAC fulfilled a traditional appellate function. Therefore, questions of law were evaluated on a standard of correctness. For question of mixed fact and law, the Court held that these questions should be assessed by applying a standard of reasonableness.

When assessing the PAC’s review of the Board decision, the Court held that the PAC identified questions of law and properly applied the correctness standard in determining those answers. Therefore, the PAC did not err by applying the wrong standard of review.

On the merits, the Court applied modern principles of statutory interpretation to conclude that the Zoning Bylaw permitted the properties to operate an autobody repair business while maintaining inventory of the parts and materials that could be reasonably used in the course of that business, including some junked vehicles to use as a source of inventory. Accordingly, the Court concluded that the PAC erred in law when it decided that the storage of any junked vehicles on a property where an autobody repair shop is located constituted a salvage yard. The Board did not err when it interpreted the Zoning Bylaw as permitting some junked vehicles to remain on the properties.

The Court ordered the requirement that EZ cease operation of a storage yard be cancelled and EZ stop stacking junked vehicles on top of each other. In making these orders, the Court did not find that stacking junked vehicles is necessarily a breach of the Zoning Bylaw. Costs were awarded to EZ in the amount of $7,500.

This case was digested by Jackson C. Doyle, and first published in the LexisNexis® Harper Grey Administrative Law Netletter and the Harper Grey Administrative Law Newsletter.