Building secondary suites in Colwood is set to be much easier moving forward after council approved a suite of bylaw amendments aimed at reducing restrictions in the community.
At the March 13 regular meeting of council, third reading was given to the bylaw amendment, with all council members voting in favour of the motion. The approval follows an earlier public hearing, which saw the vast majority of residents who spoke or submitted written comments voice their support for the plan.
Coming out of that public hearing, held on March 2, staff made several additional recommendations to council, which saw several restrictions eased.
With the version of the bylaw ultimately passed by council, Colwood property owners are now able to build both a secondary suite and a garden suite, or any other type of accessory dwelling unit on their property.
The required rear setback for an accessory dwelling unit on a property with rear lane access is also reduced to one metre, and the side yard setback for accessory dwelling units can now be the same as the property’s main structure.
These additional eased restrictions are on top of the original changes to secondary suites regulations included in the amendment.
Those original changes include changing the definition of an accessory dwelling to also mean a suite in an accessory building on a townhome lot, increasing the allowed maximum size of accessory dwelling units to 90 square metres and adding an exclusion to size limits on accessory buildings in general where the size of dwelling areas are not counted in the accessory building’s overall size.
Staff told council the changes to the city’s secondary suites regulations were recommended by staff to better align with the official community plan, and to address the large volume of variance requests staff receive each year from residents struggling to build secondary suites compatible with the previous regulations.
The additional freedoms added to the bylaw on March 13 were in direct response to the concerns staff and council heard during public engagement.
Council was unanimous in praising the changes, though Coun. Cynthia Day did raise a concern the increase in secondary suites likely to follow the bylaw’s adoption could lead to parking issues on city streets.
Those concerns were allayed when staff clarified the city’s existing parking bylaws already require each secondary suite unit have at least one off-street parking space.
Should a property owner choose to build both a secondary suite and a garden suite on their property, two off-street parking spaces would be required.