Council likely to approve legalizing suites north of McKenzie Avenue
By TRAVIS PATERSON
September 12, 2014
Permits for secondary suites in houses north of McKenzie Avenue in Saanich will likely be legal by the end of the year,
Council is expected to approve the staff recommendations in a survey-based report on Monday, as Saanich staff have prepared a list of bylaws to regulate secondary suites north of McKenzie. The list mirrors that of the rules governing suite permits south of McKenzie, which were approved in 2010.
The move has been a long time coming for Coun. Dean Murdock, who’s been trumpeting secondary suite legalization during his time in public office.
“There’s an unofficial estimate of approximately 10,000 secondary suites in Saanich,” Murdock said. “We won’t get all of them legalized with a change of allowing suites, but we’re creating an environment to give some tenants and landlords comfort and confidence that they’re meeting the requirements and doing things above board.”
The most likely option to be approved on Monday echoes the same rules brought in for suites south of McKenzie in 2010, but there is an additional option to authorize permits for all suites in Saanich that meet the semi-strict requirements.
That last step, however, is unlikely to happen now or in the future, Murdock says, as the end goal is to increase densification and protect neighbouring farmlands. The neighbourhoods identified in Monday’s decision include North Quadra, Glanford and Strawberry Vale, as well as Gordon Head and Cordova Bay. Not included are Blenkinsop valley, Broadmead (because of a covenant) and rural Saanich areas.
Coun. Nicola Wade, also in favour of the staff recommendations to make permitted suites legal north of McKenzie, said the process has been wise and measured.
“It allows folks to stay in a home, and for those wanting to get a home in this market, it makes it a little more affordable,” she said.
With a focus on densification comes the provision that all legalized suites provide an additional, off-street parking spot for tenants to avoid an on-street crush.
“We’d like to see an increase in secondary suites that doesn’t necessitate a vehicle, but the reality is we’re not there yet,” Murdock said.
“Certainly we want to stay away from encouraging denser populations in farm and rural areas.”
The staff report also includes provisions to deal with suites in accessory buildings. Current bylaws limit a residential lot to two kitchens.
A proposed amendment would allow one of the kitchens to exist in an accessory building, but it’s an area that staff haven’t yet studied.
That idea would also conflict with the secondary suite bylaw that requires the property owner to live in one of the suites, in response to concerns from neighbourhood associations.
“I think a key issue is to make sure suites are not proliferating beyond the initial suite. It would need to be studied,” Wade said.
If approved, the legal suite bylaw amendments will be drawn up by staff and expected to return to council later this fall.