Oak Bay has forwarded a duplex rezoning proposal for the residential house at 2512 Wooton Cres. (which is built as a duplex) to public hearing on Monday. If it passes, it will be the second legal conforming duplex in Oak Bay. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Homeowners caught up in Oak Bay’s duplex complexities

Oak Bay council declines application to legalize duplex

A duplex is a building with two homes in it.

A heteroduplex is double-stranded DNA or, the nucleic acid of “partly mismatched polynucleotide strands derived from two different parent molecules,” says Wikipedia.

Logic dictates one duplex should be less complicated than the other, but not in Oak Bay. At least not yet, as Oak Bay’s looming housing study is underway. The review is looking at secondary suites and other housing options, and the push from council is to design holistic housing policy that could include duplexes.

READ MORE: Oak Bay on verge of approving second duplex

The situation leaves homeowners Glenn and MaryLou Wakefield in the lurch as they have been waiting to renovate their home.

On June 24 council voted 3-3 to decline the Wakefield’s application to rezone their legal nonconforming duplex at 2506/2512 Wootton Cres. from single-family residential use to two-family residential use.

It would thereby remove the legal nonconforming status of the duplex, and also allow for a second-storey addition, says the staff report.

(Duplexes were legal conforming before Oak Bay’s 1986 decision to remove duplex zones. Despite that fact, dozens of duplexes still remain as legal nonconforming. It means that any significant repairs, maintenance or renovations to a legal nonconforming duplex require an application to the board of variance.)

The vote to decline the rezoning application surprised Glenn Wakefield, as it was council that referred the application to a public hearing in the first place. No one used the public hearing to speak out against the application, though one neighbour did write a letter opposing it.

“I’m looking at the planners and engineers and I’m stunned, I just sat there for five minutes. Then I left,” he said.

Couns. Esther Paterson, Erik Zhelka and Cairine Green voted against the rezoning, while Couns. Andrew Appleton and Tara Ney voted in favour. Coun. Hazel Braithwaite was away.

Mayor Kevin Murdoch did not vote as he was in favour of the motion, yet his vote would have made no impact (at 3-3, the vote is still moot). However, Murdoch is considering using his mayoral rights to bring the item back to council so as to confirm the vote by including Braithwaite.

The housing rental stock and the ongoing housing strategy were among key concerns with all councillors.

Paterson and Zhelka shared concerns that this would remove the other unit from Oak Bay’s rental stock.

The ultimate purpose for the Wakefields is to upgrade both units to two storeys, stratify them, and then sell the other half while continuing to live in their half (where they’ve been 20 years). Because it is not a new building, the Wootton project would have to come back to council to be stratified.

Wakefield had to agree that this will protect one suite in the rental stock for now. However, it is council who is approving the removal of a basement-level secondary suite in the duplex (if DNA can be double-stranded a duplex can have a third suite). The secondary suite – or tertiary suite, to be technical – was originally built with the house in 1957 for the homeowner’s mother.

“The irony is, I offered to keep that [basement] suite and that could have been approved,” Wakefield said. “The ramifications for us are, we are going to put in $400,000, [and] even if this rezoning is approved we could get to that point of strata and have council say no.”

reporter@oakbaynews.com

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