Reversing Bylaw 250 is right

Editorial

Tuesday, March 7 2017

Back in October, the LTC received a Housing Options survey which garnered over 400 responses - two-thirds of the respondents were people who own a home on Gabriola which is their primary residence.

Of those who responded, 83% of them were in favour of allowing secondary suites to be built in lieu of a cottage, on lots where an accessory cottage is currently allowed.

The previous LTC (Sheila Malcolmson & Gisele Rudischer) allowed secondary suites in lieu of cottages on agriculturally-zoned properties. The latest bylaws being proposed expand that out to all properties large enough to have a secondary cottage.

In the 2016 survey, Gabriolans were 84% in favour of allowing the secondary suite to be built as part of an accessory building (such as over a detached garage or barn) - on properties where an accessory cottage was already legally allowed.

This indicates to the current LTC members there is support from islanders to be more flexible in how and where secondary dwellings can be built, so long as there is no increase in residential density of the island.

The question then - to make it possible to have suites in accessory buildings - was whether to do away with Bylaw 250 - over which there was fierce debate back in 2008.

Staff is right to recommend 250 be reversed. If we are to encourage new construction and flexibility for people wanting to open businesses on Gabriola which add to the island economy. 

Keeping bylaw 250 means planning staff spending copious amounts of time coming up with a long list of exceptions to allow kitchens and bathrooms in legal accessory buildings equipped with secondary suites. Leading to more exceptions and clauses for bylaw enforcement to deal with later. 

If 250 is reversed, all bylaw enforcement has to deal with is either the property is large enough to have a secondary suite/cottage, or not.

Consider the home occupations currently permitted in the Land-Use Bylaw. Many of those types businesses are ones which are made more difficult to operate if a bathroom or kitchen is not permitted within the business portion of the home.

Five examples from the seventeen home occupations permitted in the LUB: Instructional classes in personal skills such as art, music, exercise or sport; Catering and food preparation; Animal training and grooming; Child care; Business and professional offices. If anyone wanted to open one of these businesses as a home occupation in an accessory building, that person would need to purchase a property where the kitchen/bathroom was installed prior to 2008. Building a new home, or constructing an accessory building alongside an existing home, cannot happen with Bylaw 250.

Staff have pointed out that sometimes bylaws are tried, but then later it is found that the bylaw is more problematic than the problems it solved.

In the case of illegal dwellings, Gabriola should be enforcing on those based on the complaint-driven bylaw enforcement system. Not trying to regulate plumbing or anything else, to the degree that it prevents a home owner from conducting a perfectly legal - and encouraged - home occupation.

The OCP and LUB are open for change. Go back to the 2004 consultation done with the Gabriola Community to revise the Home Occupation regulations.

The Trustees of the time - Sheila Malcolmson, Gisele Rudischer and LTC Chair Kim Benson - signed their names to the 2004 survey to the community saying, “These documents are not ‘etched in stone’, they are living documents. That is, as the community opinions change so too can the bylaws.”

The community’s opinion, according to the LTC survey, is secondary suites should be allowed where cottages already are.