Detached or not, Metchosin seeks input for suite debate

Public consultation for detached suites will begin in February, after Metchosin staff send out a newsletter outlining regulations proposed by council.

“This is a starting point,” said Mayor John Ranns. “The purpose of the public consultation process is to engage the citizens of Metchosin and get them to come out and tell us what they want to see as a referendum question, or if they want a referendum at all.”

The district is planning a series of town hall meetings, where district residents can voice their opinions and concerns. Council outlined detached suite regulations late last year, such as maximum size, parking requirements and minimum lot size as starting points for discussion.

“It’s funny, the community seems to be evenly divided as to whether they want the detached suites or not,” Ranns noted.

The meetings won’t be a platform for residents to voice their yes or no vote, but instead council is hoping even those who don’t want the suites will contemplate how they would be regulated.

“We’re not looking for people to tell us whether they agree with the detached suites or not. We’re asking people to tell us, if the suites did exist, what they would want them to look like and how they would want them regulated,” Ranns said.

Detached suites have remained a divisive issue in the district for years. A committee struck last year to help council devise policy dissolved in acrimony.

Residents will get a chance to vote on the issue in a referendum, being held concurrently with the municipal election in November. But before a referendum question can be asked, it must be written, and council is relying on residents to give input.

“The public needs to understand what they’re getting and council needs to be guided by the public on what they are getting. That’s the most critical thing. If the vote comes in yes, then that council knows exactly what has to be put into the bylaw,” Ranns said.

“I don’t want to leave it up to interpretation. I want a clear set of instructions from the public as to what they want. The devil is in the details on these sort of things. If it turns out that (the public) just don’t want it at all then that’s fine too. At least we’ll have addressed the issue.”

To change the way bylaws are enforced in Metchosin, Ranns said they would have to move away from a complaint driven system into a proactive system, which would have steep costs and implications on privacy.

“We know there are illegal detached secondary suites in the district, and we enforce every complaint,” Ranns said. “We’ve also had to deal with frivolous complaints, too. We’re asking the community to be reasonable with the complaint process ... the alternative may mean you could have the detached secondary suite police knocking at your door, and no one wants that.”

Detached suite meeting dates will be posted Metchosin’s website Dates have not been set.

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