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Regional District of Nanaimo director says secondary suites guidelines ‘a win for everyone’

RDN planner Stephan Boogaards helps address questions and concerns regarding the RDN’s secondary suite project at a public meeting hosted Feb. 26 at Coombs Rodeo Grounds main hall.  - CANDACE WU PHOTO
RDN planner Stephan Boogaards helps address questions and concerns regarding the RDN’s secondary suite project at a public meeting hosted Feb. 26 at Coombs Rodeo Grounds main hall.
— image credit: CANDACE WU PHOTO

Two scarcely-attended public meetings hosted by the RDN gave a thorough overview of the regional district's secondary suite program.

The first meeting saw 15 residents come out to the Coombs Rodeo Grounds main hall Feb. 26, while the second saw just two people at Cedar Community Hall Feb. 27.

But despite the poor turn out, RDN senior planner Greg Keller said the program has been well received, garnering a positive response from the electoral districts affected which include Nanoose Bay, Hilliers, Coombs, Errington, French Creek, Dashwood, Qualicum Bay, Deep Bay and Bowser.

"We're seeing a lot of support for secondary suites," said Keller, admitting the largest concern from residents has been a lack of adequate on-street parking — an issue that will be addressed and re evaluated by staff.

Keller said the purpose of the two meetings was to answer questions and inform residents about the secondary suite project, which has been underway since 2011 and will face a formal public hearing in the near future.

"It's also a chance for the residents to provide input and help refine the proposal," said Keller.

RDN director Bill Veenhof said he attended the meeting as both a director and an interested citizen.

"Overall, staff has done a really good job with this project," said Veenhof. "I'm very comfortable with it proceeding."

Veenhof added that he hasn't heard any negative comments in regards to the RDN's secondary suite project from his constituency.

"Though secondary suites have been in place for years this project will recognize they are here and provide some type of guideline," said Veenhof. "It's a win for everyone."

Coombs resident Max Spensley said he attended the meeting to better his understanding of what secondary suites are all about.

"I have a property in Coombs and I'm looking into building on it," said Spensley. "I want to see if this (secondary suite project) makes it so I can build a secondary suite on my property, or subdivide and create a second dwelling."

Spensley said he doesn't know a lot about the project and came out to get informed.

"I've lived in Coombs my whole life and I'd like to stay in this community," said Spensley.

Nanoose Bay resident Annette Hansen said she is also looking to build a secondary suite on her existing property.

"I'm happy to see this project move forward," said Hansen. "I lived in a secondary suite on my mother's property when I was a young, single mom and now I'd like to build a suite for my mother to live in on my property — the tables have turned."

Hansen said she supports secondary suites because they provide both affordable housing and an opportunity to keep extended family close.

According to Keller secondary suites are not currently a permitted form of housing in the above listed electoral areas.

Keller said at a Jan. 28 RDN meeting, staff proposed bylaw amendments which were given first and second readings by the RDN  board.

Keller said the public information sessions are an important part of moving the project forward.

"These meetings give the RDN the opportunity for public discussion and two-way dialog," said Keller.

At both meetings community feedback forms were distributed and Keller said all concerns raised by residents will be taken into consideration by staff.

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