LETTER: Community must be heard on secondary suites

There is much good information and discussion on the issues of owner occupancy, parking bylaws and impact on trees in Phases 1 and 2 of the present suite study.

READ ALSO: Survey shows Oak Bay divided over secondary suites

However, there are four important issues that I do not see explicitly mentioned which must be addressed before council and the community can have a meaningful evidence-based discussion on potentially legalizing family suites in Oak Bay.

A detailed business plan is essential. I estimate startup costs to be $100,000 and ongoing yearly costs of $150,000. Not insignificant amounts.

Are these costs to be borne by the municipality or user? Even with a 7.34 per cent increase in the municipal portion of our 2019 property taxes staff has stated our yearly contribution to our infrastructure renewal program is falling well behind (my estimate is more than $2 million). Given our precarious financial situation at this stage is the outlay of municipal taxes for suite legalization a priority?

READ ALSO: Oak Bay hikes property tax 7.34 per cent

Before legal suites are allowed, the community deserves to know how the present illegal suites are to be dealt with. Will they be ignored? Complaint driven and actively shut down? Will parking bylaws actually be enforced?

The state, size and present usage of our pipes – sewer and storm drains – are all major factor when adding new building densification. An engineering report on their capacity is essential when determining where housing types, including legal family suites, can be accommodated.

READ ALSO: Development charges won’t fix Oak Bay’s looming infrastructure costs, says mayor

The eight critical issues of a suite plan – owner occupancy, parking bylaws, impact on trees, business plan, user pay or municipality pay system, pipe capacities, enforcement, plus building code requirements – can be naturally addressed separately and independently.

READ ALSO: Quest is in line with Oak Bay vision, says developer

Phase 3 of the present suite study is called “Issues and Opportunities.” I suggest the format for this phase allow our engaged and knowledgeable community to give more valuable input on these separate issues. The result will be a “Made in Oak Bay Suite Plan.”

I believe this is by far the best way to ensure we end up with a suite plan which the community will support.

Mike Wilmut

Oak Bay

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