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Residents question RDN housing bylaw update delay

Homeowners still waiting for permission to build detached suites
PQB News file photo

A couple of homeowners have been waiting for the Regional District of Nanaimo to amend its bylaw to allow them to build detached secondary suites on their property.

Susan Farlinger and Robb Wilson indicated that it’s been three years since the proposal was made to update the RDN’s Land Use and Subdivision Bylaw 500. They asked why the bylaw update has not been advanced despite three years of meetings, surveys and a draft bylaw last year.

“Although the bylaw was to begin readings in March, no updates have been provided and, on inquiring, I understand none of this final portion of the process has occurred,” Farlinger stated in her letter to the RDN board. “Personally, that means to me that I must continue to delay plans for a detached secondary suite. Like others in our demographic, this can allow us to provide our house and property to my son and family and to live in the smaller suite. Given the many layers of challenges with housing and the need for young families to become owners of their own housing in the now permanent market conditions, extended family solutions seem an obvious one of the many necessary to make a difference in this area.”

Farlinger also finds it difficult to understand why the bylaw has not yet entered the reading or final hearing stage when it is so urgently needed by many in the regional district.

The RDN board at its regular meeting on May 23 asked staff to update them on the Bylaw 500 amendment and when it will be presented for review and consideration.

Manager of Long Range Planning Paul Thompson informed the board that they are still going over the draft of the bylaw that has over 400 pages.

READ MORE: Secondary suites bylaw approved for those who live in Regional District of Nanaimo

“To ensure that there’s no big mistakes or omissions in it and refining some of the final changes that we made in terms of actual zoning that would be applied to different properties,” said Thompson. “Because it’s such a complex and large document, it is taking a while. The timeline now is to present it to the EASC (Electoral Areas Services Committee) in the fall, and looking to get readings for that and proceed to the next step.”

Qualicum Beach director Teunis Westbroek questioned why it’s complicated when the Town of Qualicum Beach has achieved a bylaw that now allows detached homes and suites in the community.

“When we first started, people advised me not to do it, it’s a hot potato, it’s going to create a lot of controversy. It didn’t, at all, ” said Westbroek. “I think it passed unanimously with very few negative comments. And I think it’s one of the more efficient ways to use existing infrastructure and provide affordable housing for some and other options for others, a place for their parents or for one of the children to live in. I can’t seen anything why it takes so long and why it’s so difficult.”

Thompson explained the current bylaw already allows secondary suites on properties in rural and residential zones.

“What we’re talking about is a change to allow detached suites,” said Thompson. “So it’s going to be a detached suite that is separate from the main dwelling. What we’re reviewing now is the entire Bylaw 500. We’re going to update the whole thing. So it’s not just about adding suites. The entire bylaw is getting replaced by a new bylaw. That’s why it’s a complex, very difficult thing to do. That’s why it’s taking a bit longer.”

Because there is a shortage of affordable housing in the region, Westbroek asked whether the RDN could deal with the issue on detached suites separately to get things moving.

“Get that done before you take on the entire Bylaw 500,” said Westbroek.

General manager of Development & Emergency Services, Lisa Grant indicated the scope of the job is to completely revise Bylaw 500 and that it requires a variety of legal reviews.

“We need to make sure that we’re putting in place a bylaw that’s not going to create non-conformities or other challenges,” Grant said. “That’s the real technical piece that Mr. Thompson was speaking to.”

Grant said that it is the board’s decision if it wants to look at secondary suites as a separate project outside of the Bylaw 500 update.

“If this was something that the board want to entertain at this point of the process, we would look for that motion to separate that,” said Grant. “But note that would push out Bylaw 500 further out from coming forward as a complete package for review.”

Grant said they can also follow up with the property owners and explain the application process they can go through to deal with their immediate situation.

Westbroek said reaching out to Farlinger and Wilson is a step in the right direction so they can get some guidance as to what their next step could be. He added he will be considering making a notice of motion to have staff deal with this portion of Bylaw 500 separately.


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Michael Briones

About the Author: Michael Briones

I rejoined the PQB News team in April 2017 from the Comox Valley Echo, having previously covered sports for The NEWS in 1997.
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