APC members approve of secondary suites in lieu of cottages proposal

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, November 1 2016

In looking at the results of the Islands Trust’s Housing Survey for Gabriola, the Advisory Planning Commission members mirrored what came from the public respondents - allow Secondary Suites to be built in lieu (instead of) on properties which are currently allowed to have an accessory cottage.

Those would be properties over 2 hectares (roughly 5 acres) and the cottage currently must be under 699 square feet in size.

Like the members of the public though, the rest of the questions on secondary suites are not quite so clear.

Off the table for discussion - for the survey and for the APC - was talking about allowing secondary suites on properties under 5 acres in size. That is not part of this first phase in the Trust’s Housing Project.

As Planner Sonja Zupanec said, some of the comments from the public, “felt like this was increasing density. It is not for allowing secondary suites across all properties on Gabriola.”

According to the survey, there was strong support to allow secondary suites (in lieu of a cottage) either in principal dwelling, or above a non-residential accessory building.

APC member Bob Andrew said despite the question not being asked, “I think if it is close to the village, it could be on small lots, or even on 5 acre lots, if they be within a half kilometer of the bus system. 

“I wonder about having these on any properties outside that catchment area. Beyond that, you are adding a level of land-use to the community that could impact it more I think.”

Whether the suite, or even the cottage, could be allowed to build to 900 square feet (roughly the standard size of the BC Building Code for secondary dwelling).

Andrew said, “I personally think 900 square feet should be the max. You don’t need more than that. 850 square feet can get two bedrooms very comfortable. I don’t understand the point of having bigger.”

APC member Kees Langereis said, “to me it is a no brainer, a cottage or a suite.”

The other members of the APC present agreed.

Zupanec pointed out in other parts of the Regional District of Nanaimo, the RDN does not permit a home occupation in secondary suites.

APC Chair Madeline Ani said that would be a problem on Gabriola.

“I would want people here to be able to make an income at home like they do in the principle dwelling.”

There were concerns voiced in the Survey results about secondary suites being used as B&Bs or Short Term Vacation Rentals.

APC member Anne Landry said the regulations could be made up to, “make the distinction, no B&Bs, but let someone be a graphic designer.”

The housing survey was conducted last month by way of a printed version distributed in the Sounder and an online version though the Islands Trust website.

This is part of a larger project where the Trust is seeking to address housing concerns on Gabriola.

The project is broken down into “lower hanging fruit” which will look for potential solutions within the existing framework - and longer term might look to other changes to be made which require more substantial changes to the Gabriola Official Community Plan (OCP) as well as to the Land Use Bylaw (LUB).

The first stage - the lower hanging fruit - included the proposal to allow secondary suites on properties where accessory cottages are already legal to build.