Housing options project will allow secondary suites in accessory buildings

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, March 7 2017

The Gabriola Local Trust Committee is proposing to reverse Gabriola Bylaw 250 which does not allow for the installation of bathrooms or kitchens in accessory buildings.

Trust staff explained this past week that the change is less about home occupation and more in relation to the secondary suites which are being proposed as part of the Housing Options Review Project.

As previously reported in the Sounder, the current LTC members are proposing to expand on regulations which allow homeowners to build a secondary suite in lieu of a stand-alone cottage, so long as a property has the correct size and zoning to do so.

The previous LTC had started this process by allowing secondary suites to be built in primary residences in lieu of building accessory cottages on properties zoned Agricultural.

During the current phase of the Housing Options Review Project, there is no move by the LTC to consider allowing secondary suites on properties which do not already have the zoning for an accessory cottage.

Some of the configurations for secondary suites will allow for a suite to be built as part of an accessory building (above a garage or barn for example), again where the property already has the zoning and size to legally build an accessory cottage dwelling.

The problem for these options is that Bylaw 250 does not allow for the construction of bathrooms or kitchens in an accessory building (such as a garage).

When Bylaw 250 was put in place in 2008, staff at the time suggested kitchens and bathrooms in accessory buildings could be a gateway to illegal dwellings.

And opponents of the LTC’s current proposal to reverse Bylaw 250 back up this opinion - that by allowing kitchens and bathrooms in accessory buildings, it makes it possible (i.e. easier) for people to build illegal dwellings.

Current staff are advising the LTC that rather than try to write in clauses to allow the Housing Options Review Project to move forward, Bylaw 250 should be reversed, and enforcement be done as per the zoning and enforcement regulations, rather than through regulations around plumbing.

As staff explained this past week to the Sounder, if homeowners are going to build illegal suites in accessory buildings, the enforcement of that is done through the zonings, not a regulation about plumbing.

The bylaw being proposed which would allow secondary suites in lieu of cottages has six different configurations allowable for the suites. Of those, any which have the secondary suite in a building outside of the primary dwelling will not be possible while Bylaw 250 is in place.

The proposed bylaw would also allow the secondary dwelling to be up to 968 square feet. If the secondary dwelling (as a suite) is inside the primary dwelling, it can only take up 40 per cent of the floor area of the primary dwelling, up to 968 square feet.

As mentioned in the Feb. 14 Sounder, another concern which has come to the LTC’s attention has been the request to allow for a commercial kitchen in an accessory building, or a secondary kitchen in the primary building, as health regulations require food preparation be done in a separate part of the primary building or in a completely separate building.

The Gabriola Land Use Bylaw Home Occupation Regulations specifically outline, “Catering and food preparation for delivery elsewhere” as a permitted home occupation but, as staff point out, since 2008 Bylaw 250 has prevented homeowners from constructing a commercial kitchen to conduct a food-based business.

With the reversal of Bylaw 250, this would again be possible.

Staff acknowledged that someone could potentially build three accessory buildings with commercial kitchens if that was required for a cooking operation, and then turn those buildings into illegal rentals.

But, as Trust staff pointed out, at that point, the complaint-driven bylaw enforcement would kick in.

Along with these changes, another change coming is that within the home occupation regulations, both the primary and secondary residences will be able to have a home occupation - under current regulations only the primary dwelling is permitted to have a home occupation.

Draft Bylaws 292 and 293 for the Housing Options Review Project that were given first reading at the Feb. 9 LTC meeting included the wording to eliminate Bylaw 250 completely.

A community information meeting will be scheduled and referral letters for the Bylaws will be sent out to 17 different agencies including the Regional District of Nanaimo Building Inspection, Islands Trust Bylaw Enforcement, and the Gabriola Housing Society.