LTC to add accessory buildings construction to projects list

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News 

Wednesday, October 2 2019

The Gabriola Island Local Trust Committee will be adding one more item to its projects list - this time to deal with issues around the construction of accessory buildings on empty properties prior to a building permit being issued for the principal dwelling.

The discussion came up at the latest LTC meeting, held on September 12.

As reported in the Sounder previously, Islands Trust bylaw enforcement staff have recently been providing warnings to property owners who have built accessory buildings on residential properties where there is no principal dwelling.

In addition, the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) has stopped issuing permits for accessory buildings where there is no principal dwelling or permit issued for a principal dwelling. While this has been a normal practice in the past, RDN staff said that in doing a plan check in the last year, staff found that doing so contravened the Gabriola Land Use Bylaw, and have put a stop to issuing those permits.

Hearing from voters, the Gabriola Trustees are now looking for a solution, as well as an explanation, on what the logic is behind prohibiting the construction of accessory buildings where there is no principal dwelling.

As Trustee Kees Langereis said, “The policy in the past has been that people could apply for an accessory building prior to an issuance of a permit for a residential building. That seems to have been a practice.”

He said beyond there being a need for a clear interpretation of the bylaw, “maybe we need to have a discussion about the intent.”

Trustee Scott Colbourne said the bylaw has been “inconsistently applied - either it has not been adhered to, or ignored. There are dozens of buildings put up in contradiction to the bylaws.”

Colbourne suggested the issue could be part of the overall housing project, and could be looked at by the Housing Advisory Planning Commission which was formed to look specifically at housing issues from the Islands Trust perspective.

Langereis said it is not necessarily a housing issue, and it should go before the Gabriola Advisory Planning Commission which looks at the issues not specific to just housing.

He said, “It’s a construction issue, a policy issue, rather than housing. It’s not just about establishing housing, but about accessory buildings.”

LTC Chair Dan Rogers, who lives on Keats Island in the Gambier Local Trust Area, said he has lived the experience of building an accessory building before a principal dwelling - because the accessory buildings enable someone to then build their home.

Trust staff said the logic behind the bylaw was that in the past, people would build the accessory building, and then some owners started converting the accessory buildings into principal dwellings, rather than building actual principal dwellings.

Construction standards for principal dwellings differ from those of accessory buildings.

So the result was substandard housing being built, impacting housing stock within the community.

As a result, regulations were crafted to prevent that from happening.

A shed or anything else 10 x10 can be built without a permit, but still has to be accessory to the use of the property - either to a principal dwelling; for horticultural purposes; or agricultural purposes.

Staff said the bylaw may or may not be relevant anymore - it was crafted in the 1990s.

Any accessory buildings constructed with permits but contravening the Trust bylaw were done so through a lack of communication between the RDN building staff and the Islands Trust.

In recent years, through at least the last four terms, Trustees and staff have been working with the RDN to close the gaps where miscommunications like this have happened.

Trust staff said to sort the issue out and present a report to the Trustees would take time.

“Analysis has to happen first - that’s a dedicated project. Bigger than the Housing Review.”

Langereis said there’s some validity to the logic, saying people are allowed to build washrooms and kitchens in accessory buildings again (which was prohibited between 2009 and 2018).

“If we allow an accessory building without a timeline on putting up a principal - you could have an accessory built with a kitchen and a bathroom.

“You have a building that could be dwelt in even though it’s not supposed to be...”

Trustees said that is correct, and because that building was built as an accessory and not intended as a dwelling, the standards may not necessarily be the same as a principal residence would have.

Colbourne said, “So it’s a compliance issue - and they were trying to deal with compliance through a bylaw.

“It’s heartening staff are working closer together; could the LTC request the RDN share plans?”

Staff said “the capacity for our office to do everything that the RDN does, does not exist.

“We are super grateful they contact us for files where they have a question around any of the work.

“But the volume of statistics - if that work were sent to us - would be too much, and would delay their work.”

Rogers asked for a motion, pointing out the project list for the Gabriola LTC is already 17 items deep.

The motion was made that a review be done of the policy of the order of construction of accessory buildings and principal dwellings in the Gabriola Land Use Bylaw.