Metchosin council is moving forward on the legalization of detached secondary suites, but the issue continues to drive division within the community.
Council has passed a motion to direct staff to write a draft land-use bylaw to legalize the suites, under specific guidelines.
“We are doing this in a phased approach,” said Coun. Bob Gramigna. “The first part is based on the referendum question.”
During November’s municipal election, Metchosin residents voted on a non-binding referendum question on whether or not to legalize the detached secondary suites. About 53 per cent voted in favour — 968 said yes and 887 were opposed.
The question included stipulations, including that detached suites would need to be on a lot size of 0.8 hectares or larger, and be at least 15 metres from the principle dwelling and property lines.
At Monday’s council meeting, Coun. Moralea Milne suggested suites should only be allowed when the landowner lives on the property, to have the area inspected to ensure there is only one suite per lot, and for it to have solar hot water and night sky friendly lighting.
Coun. Jo Mitchell wants to have staff look into options for fees to cover all the cost of detached suites so it doesn’t get passed onto the tax payer.
Both councillors suggestions will be considered as the bylaw written. The first draft is expected in March.
Phase 1 of implementing Metchosin’s detached suite bylaw includes creating the detailed regulations and definition of a legal detached suite, based on the referendum question.
Metchosin will also work on identifying and tracking the use of existing accessory buildings on residential properties.
Council wants to ensure accessory buildings aren’t being converted into suites without permission, Gramigna said.
When that is complete, council will move to Phase 2 where it will look at legalizing existing suites, how to enforce the policies and to create a detached suites registry.
About 100 people attended a planning and zoning committee meeting on Jan. 16, where public participation stretched to 1.5 hours.
The issue was on the council agenda, Jan. 23 and about 10 people spoke during public participation.
Some residents are concerned about detached suites bringing more people into the district and causing policing and municipal costs to rise.
Some think the narrow margin of victory for the “yes” side doesn’t give council clear direction. Others are concerned Metchosin won’t be able to properly monitor detached suites, leading to a proliferation of new residents.
Many people used the term “divided community.”
“Metchosin is a very involved community and people care especially when it comes to land use,” said Gramigna, chair of the planning and zoning committee. “What’s important is to be consistent and fair. I strive for transparency, clarity and understanding, but understanding doesn’t always mean acceptance.”
Jim MacPherson, Metchosin resident and treasurer of the Association for the Protection of Rural Metchosin, a group opposed to detached suites, hopes council creates policies for effective enforcement.
“I do accept the results of the referendum. Now the council has to make certain rules for construction,” he said.
For instance, he want council to ensure homes with detached suites have a single driveway.
“Even though subdivision isn’t allowed now, in the longer term with a new council (it may be),” MacPherson said.
“When we moved in here it was the rural character and the atmosphere of the municipality we liked.”