It’s time to look at permitting suites in all areas of Saanich

Posted by on Aug 10, 2011

Suites study lacks terms, time line
By Natalie North – Saanich News

Saanichites living south of McKenzie Avenue have had a year to legalize their secondary suite – and 30 homeowners have done just that. But residents outside of the selected study area, including those in neighbourhoods already dense with illegal suites, are still not sure when they’ll be able to legalize their suite.

And as it turns out, council doesn’t know either.

Coun. Dean Murdock is critical of the lack of terms placed on the “selected study” and questions if that title is a misnomer. He says he’s hearing complaints from residents north of McKenzie who want to legalize their suite, but can’t.

“There was no time line (placed) on how we would revisit it, and furthermore, there were no indicators for how we would measure whether or not it was successful, other than we would know based on the number of permits issued or what the uptake was like,” Murdock said.

The councillor is currently door-knocking in preparation for November’s municipal election, and says residents in the High Quadra area have asked what options they have to own a legal suite.

The president of the North Quadra Land Use Association says he’s experienced a lack of concerns from area residents who want a legal suite.

“I don’t know exactly how (Saanich is) going to deal with this issue and how many people are waiting,” said Haji Charania. “To the best of my knowledge, the experience in other municipalities is legalizing suites is met with moot response.” And so far in Saanich, that appears to be the case.

Mayor Frank Leonard says a change to the study would have to be instigated once a report from the planning department is submitted to council, which would happen no earlier than September.

The municipality’s director of planning, however, maintains the request to revisit the issue needs to come from council.

“(The intent of the study) was to focus on this issue in one defined area, take a review of it at some point in time and say, ‘Are there things that we can learn from this?’” said Sharon Hvozdanski. “But there was no specific time set by council in terms of when this matter would come back to them.”

Don Gunn, vice-president of the Gordon Head Residents Association, calls legalizing existing suites a foregone conclusion, because like Charania, he hasn’t heard his neighbours request the ability to legalize their suite.

Leonard suggests those residents outside of the study area who want a legal suite should contact their neighbourhood association. It could potentially expedite the process by bringing the issue to the forefront of the association’s agenda.