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Parksville prepares new housing bylaw to meet provincial mandate

Bylaw aims to increase density and encourage rentals over short-term accommodations
The Parksville Civic and Technology Centre located at 100 Jensen Ave East. (Kevin Forsyth photo)

Parksville council got its first look at the city’s new zoning and development bylaw created to satisfy recent provincial housing legislation.

The provincial government has mandated municipalities change zoning bylaws to allow four dwelling units per parcel in zones that currently only permit two, among other sweeping changes.

City staff presented a draft of the provincial Small-Scale, Multi-Unit Housing (SSMUH) initiative to council during its May 22 meeting.

“What’s proposed is to allow for four dwelling units — two of them being principle dwelling units, which can be in the form of two single family homes or a duplex,” said the city’s director of community planning and building, Blaine Russell. “And then inside of those dwelling units can be a suite and that’s how we arrive at the four units.”

In each family dwelling on a given parcel, the main part of the home must be used primarily as a residence, with each being permitted a secondary suite which can be used as a short-term rental, Russell said.

“You can only have one secondary suite within a principal dwelling unit,” he said. “And so to ensure rental accommodation what we’ve done, we’ve provided a secondary suite and within each of those principal dwellings. If you have a secondary suite, my recollection is you can’t have a bed and breakfast in a house with a secondary suite.”

He added the bylaw is intended to incentivize rental accommodation rather than short-term rentals in the principal residence.

The SSMUH initiative will see 18 zones modified, with 15 of them changed in response to the province’s Bill 44, according to Russell. Two zones will be altered as part of general housekeeping and one zone (NC-1) is proposed for deletion.

Parksville’s single family residential (RS-1) zone will see the most potential change, Russell said.

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There are 3,522 properties zoned RS-1 in the city, with 1,461 of them larger than 800 square metres, and thus more likely to potentially have a secondary suite or be a duplex, Russell said. The city currently has 153 legal secondary dwellings, he added.

Over the last 30 years, since secondary suites were made legal in the city, approximately five have been added to Parksville’s rental pool per year, Russell said.

“If we were to look at a five-fold increase, at most we’re probably looking between 25 to 50 units per year,” he added. “I believe this is a very optimistic number.”

Mayor Doug O’Brien suggested the densification could double the amount of infrastructure needed to support extra residents.

Russell said the increase in densification will be incremental and manageable, and accompanied by a housing demand analysis every five years and a corresponding official community plan amendment every five years.

“I just don’t want the public to have this fear that 3,000 new homes are going to appear tomorrow,” he said. “This is going to be extremely incremental.”

Coun. Joel Grenz said he was initially “quite concerned” about the effects Bill 44 would have on the city, but now feels Parksville could serve as a “good template for the province to follow in terms of how to manage growth and allow for a variety of housing types.”

The city will provide notice rather than a public hearing, according to chief administrative officer Keeva Kehler.

The city is prohibited from holding a public hearing, in this instance, by Bill 44, which stipulates a local government must not hold a public hearing for a bylaw consistent with the official community plan.

The bylaw will be considered for first, second and third reading at council’s June 17 meeting.

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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