Oak Bay continues to mould its secondary suites policy, with council offering direction on eight items to guide staff during a recent special meeting.
Staff had asked council to look at 10 areas to help whittle down the district’s secondary suite strategy. Eight were easily addressed at the Nov. 16 meeting:
– that the suites program address both new and existing structures;
– secondary suites be incorporated into the single family residential use zone;
– there be no minimum lot size to have a suite;
– there be no maximum lot size;
– owner occupancy be a requirement to have a secondary suite within a single-family dwelling;
– enforcement of secondary suites should be complaint-based;
– basic health and safety standards should be met for existing homes using alternate compliance methods of the building code, and full BC Building Code compliance be required for new buildings, and,
– a registration program be used to track suites in Oak Bay
The owner occupancy element did spark debate, with Couns. Tara Ney and Andrew Appleton opposing the motion, calling it a barrier to housing.
Appleton sees a “bit of a negative connotation” that those who rent might need oversight.
“Even if both units are being rented these are all neighbours and community members that engage with the community,” he said.
Ney suggested having two rental units fulfills the larger objective of the policy as called for in the official community plan – to provide more housing options.
Parking and boarders remain up for larger debate.
Council couldn’t agree on whether a home could be allowed to have either a secondary suite or be used for boarders. Citing similar concerns as earlier, Appleton, Ney and the added voice of Coun. Cairine Green opposed the either/or idea.
“In a housing crisis I think we owe it to the broader community to provide as many housing options as possible,” Appleton said, noting Oak Bay has a surfeit of large houses that can accommodate many living spaces.
The motion failed on a tie, with Coun. Erik Zhelka absent, but the matter will come back to council for further discussion later, anticipating all of council in attendance.
Council also came to no consensus on parking, despite a couple of attempts to tweak the motion.
The report came to council suggesting policy require one additional off-street parking space for a secondary suite. Council considered deferring requirements for off street parking two years from when a bylaw goes into effect, and specifying that heritage buildings with suites not require off street parking.
Appleton, Ney and Green opposed. The requirement for parking incentivizes driving, which is in contrast to the climate emergency Oak Bay has declared, Appleton said. He later reiterated he would not support the motion unless it was coupled with a mandatory fee structure for vehicles.
Council did however, come to consensus tasking staff with bringing back a report to clarify and inform the parking conversation further. The report is expected to address some of the questions and concerns brought up during the meeting.
Oak Bay council generally meets Monday nights at 7 p.m. at municipal hall, 2167 Oak Bay Ave. Find meeting schedule, agenda and streaming information at oakbay.civicweb.net.
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