Trustees ask for report on long-term implications of covenant prohibiting strata subdivisions

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, June 20 2017

Gabriola Trustees are asking Islands Trust staff to look into what implications - and options- there are if a covenant were put in place prohibiting subdivision under the strata property act.

The request comes after a community information meeting on the Housing Options Review Project held this past Wednesday night by the Gabriola Local Trust Committee (LTC).

Chief among the concerns expressed by members of the public was that if the Trustees put a covenant in place prohibiting a particular form of subdivision that it may limit future options for attainable and/or affordable housing on Gabriola.

As Trust staff explained at the meeting, the idea of putting the subdivision in place was to raise a flag at the land titles office if someone were to attempt to create a subdivision out of a stratified lot.

Staff said even if subdividing the property would go against any Gabriola regulations, there is no trigger for the proving officer to check or confirm with the Islands Trust prior to approving the subdivision - unless there is a covenant registered on title which would then raise flags for the land titles office.

Trustee Heather O’Sullivan said she understood the reasoning behind the recommendation to put the covenant in place, but said in doing so, “we risk stifling creative forms of ownership.”

Trustee Melanie Mamoser knew the LTC was looking to close a loophole that says the LTC has no public input into the subdivision.

The suggestion was made that if the LTC were a signatory on the covenant, the LTC members would be able to discharge the covenant in the event someone wanted to do something which created affordable housing.

“It will then come to the public to see it.

“I would add, I don’t like the idea of this covenant being a deterrent to secondary suites. We want to expand the options.”

Mamoser said she knew the island is still waiting on census data to give a real idea of what the housing situation is like on Gabriola, “but I do think rental stock is at a crisis situation.”

One member of the public suggested that it be written into the covenant that discharge of the covenant will be considered for projects which deal with affordable housing.

LTC to reverse washroom bylaw

Trustees reiterated their intent to reverse the “bathroom bylaw” put in place in 2008/09 which made washrooms in accessory buildings illegal.

As staff explained, the bylaw was put in place by the then-LTC as an obstacle to prevent property owners from creating illegal secondary dwellings out of accessory buildings.

O’Sullivan said she supported the reversal of the bylaw “as soon as [staff] said the regulation was intended to create an obstacle. 

“Creating obstacles should not be the goal of good legislation.”

“We’re looking for legislation which enables, and creates, and will be enforceable.”

Staff said illegal dwellings can be dealt with through bylaw enforcement staff, who can inspect and shut down such dwellings.

LTC Chair Laura Busheikin said the bylaw “seemed to be second guessing bylaw enforcement, or suggesting bylaw enforcement staff weren’t getting the job done.”

Trustee Mamoser said there were unintended consequences with the bylaw.

Home businesses which require a washroom facility in order to operate were no longer able to set up in new locations on the island.

Caterers in particular, as explained, need a commercial kitchen and the health authority does not permit the kitchen of the primary dwelling to be used.

Persons working out of a garage or studio may not wish to use their home washroom for work clean up, and many home businesses need to have a business washroom for customers.

“People went behind the doors and created unsafe situations.”

The next LTC meeting is scheduled for July 13 and will be on Mudge Island.