North Saanich council is steaming ahead with plans to remove an exemption to its secondary suites bylaw, as residents of Dean Park Estates continue to urge them to reconsider.
On Monday night, councillors voted to advance a revision to its zoning bylaw that allows secondary suites throughout the municipality. That revision would remove an exemption that effectively bans secondary suites on 782 properties within Dean Park Estates. It was put in place in 2015, after residents and the Dean Park Estates Community Association (DPECA) convinced the council at that time, that the exemption would reduce confusion in the area — which already does not allow secondary suites under a restrictive covenant on those properties.
North Saanich council cited other neighbourhoods’ requests for the same type of exemption as a reason for wanting the same rules to apply across the entire District.
“I initiated this vote process on exemption removal after another community that asked for an exemption too,” said Councillor Murray Weisenberger. “The District is not party to any of these separate covenants and it’s not fair to all of (the District) that we take on the enforcement of covenants.”
Speaking to council Monday night, DPECA President Peter Jones said the covenant — called a Schedule of Restrictions — is up to Dean Park residents to enforce.
“Not even DPECA can do that,” he said. “DPECA’s existence is to get neighbours to talk and resolve those things.”
Jones said the District’s bylaw exemption for those properties made it clear that the municipality recognized the covenant and would not give people building permits for secondary suites.
“What will happen if the District removes the exemption,” Jones continued, “is some suites will be built and neighbours could go to court with neighbours, if it pisses them off enough.”
He asked that council work with DPECA and the residents to keep the exemption in place.
Coun. Heather Gartshore asked District staff about the applications for secondary suites. She was told that current application forms do ask property owners to check if they have restrictive covenants on their land.
Gartshore said she didn’t support the 2015 exemption in the first place and heard nothing from Jones or from the many speakers on the issue during Monday night’s public hearing.
“Only the parties to the covenant should determine what’s appropriate under its Schedule of Restrictions,” she said, adding there have been secondary suits in Dean Park Estates for years and it hasn’t been an issue.
“There have been two methods to take action for 40 years,” she said, “one, complain to the District and two, challenge it through the Schedule of Restrictions. And that just hasn’t happened.”
Coun. Jack McClintock, who also said he never supported the exemption at Dean Park, added he doesn’t believe there should be two sets of laws.
“The bylaw applies in all of the District,” he said.”Enforced evenly.”
Coun. Jack Thornburgh said he changed his mind on the exemption.
“I still feel we’re better off having the municipality as a whole under the same set of rules,” he said. “Dean Park’s Schedule of Restrictions does take precedence, but that’s up to Dean Park to sort out.”
Coun. Celia Stock stuck to her support of the exemption, saying she is siding with what a majority of Dean Park residents want — and that’s the added layer of protection from secondary suites. Stock did add the covenant, applicable to those 782 properties, does not erase the District’s bylaws. But based on the most recent “overwhelming” opposition to removing the exemption, she would vote to keep it.
Monday’s latest vote to remove it passed 4-1. It is not yet a done deal, however, as the bylaw change must be approved by the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, then returned to council for a final vote at a later date.
Twelve of 15 speakers at the hearing Monday were opposed to the change. The majority of people were from Dean Park Estates. Many expressed fears that losing the added protection of a District exemption could ruin their neighbourood.
Mayor Alice Finall and Coun. Geoff Orr were not at Monday night’s meeting, which angered some people, who stated the decision required all of council be present. Gartshore noted that it’s normal for a council, when it has a quorum, to proceed with municipal business.