Bylaw Breakers

Illegal secondary suites are plentiful in Regional District of Nanaimo

There’s no shortage of secondary suites and carriage houses in the rural areas of the Regional District of Nanaimo, despite the fact they’re illegal.

Now, the RDN is trying to bring its bylaw into line with this stubborn reality. The issue arose at Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting as RDN staff presented a draft of its secondary suites consultation plan.

Chief administrative officer Paul Thorkelson said the district decided to deal with the issue in order to save staff, residents and directors from having to deal with a potential tidal wave of trouble from the disconnect between the bylaw and the reality on the ground.

“The point of the exercise is that the existing zoning bylaws in all areas do not allow secondary suites,” he said. “However, they exist in great numbers all over the place. We want to try to bring the existing zoning bylaw into line with the community’s wants, needs and desires. As it is, if we get a report about a secondary suite, we need to bring it to the board for enforcement action and we don’t want to do that. It’s not fair to the people, to staff or the board.”

His concern about the residents living in the suites was echoed by Cedar director Alec McPherson.

“All you need is a complaint,” he said. “Where income is very low and people are just making it, the next place for them is in the woods or on the street and I’m just not comfortable with that.”

The consultation plan, Thorkelson said, is designed to find out what is wanted and needed in each of the rural areas in the RDN

“This is about where and how community members support allowing secondary suites,” Thorkelson said. “There will be presentations, workshops, online surveys and we plan to take advantage of existing community networks. We will compile the results and give a recommendation to the board. Based on the board amendments, a new bylaw will be drafted.”

Directors agreed to receive the draft consultation plan and continue with the community consultation process.

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