Council Monday forwarded plans for a small subdivision to public hearing after the developer agreed to a covenant against secondary suites.

Suites banned from Saanich development

A Saanich councillor said he is “uncomfortable” about creating pockets in the community with covenants against secondary suites.

Coun. Colin Plant made this comment after council forwarded plans for a two-lot subdivision on Helvetia Crescent to public hearing. While the zoning for each of the single family dwellings permits secondary suites, applicant Jesse Baidwan has agreed to a covenant that prohibits suites following neighbourhood concerns.

For the record, the public heard Monday that staff would have brought forward the idea of a covenant to address neighbourhood concerns.

Brad Cunnin, a spokesperson for Baidwan, said the covenant emerged out of discussions with Saanich staff and the neighbourhood.

“We are not seeking to be controversial,” he said. “People who are going to be buying these sorts of manor homes are not the kind of people who need a mortgage helper, and wouldn’t want to give up their privacy,” he said. “It costs nothing for us to offer that, and it gives the neighbours some assurance.”

While Plant acknowledged that the idea of the covenant came from the applicant himself, he also expressed concerns that it might set a precedent.

“As a councillor, I am a little uncomfortable creating pockets, where we covenant individual houses that say ‘you can’t have secondary suites,’ because of the fact that we do want to encourage residents to have legal secondary suites,” said Plant. “I recognize up on [Cordova Bay] Ridge, because I teach there, there are lots of secondary suites that are not legal, and there is nothing to say other than goodwill that this applicant could not see the same thing happening with the people who are buying those houses.”

While future residents are unlikely to have secondary suites, the issue of covenants against secondary suites nonetheless points to a larger principle, said Plant. “The land use should be the land use, not assuage neighbourhood concerns,” he said. “That being said, the applicant is happy to put it on, and the residents are happy this time, so I’m not going to hold it up, and I look forward to having this discussion at a public hearing.”

Future attendees will then have to consider a proposal that differs significantly from its initial shape. Consultations between the developer and the Cordova Bay Association for Community Affairs dating back to 2014 first considered a sub-division of four lots. Subsequent consultations cut that number into half. The proposed lots would be 1,948 square-metres and 2,211 square-metres in size.

Plant said he is pleased that the developer has revised his proposal to win the support of the community. “The applicant has done a good job of consultation,” he said.

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