Illegal suites in Highlands yet to spark debate seen in Metchosin

While the District of Metchosin is preparing to bring the issue of detached secondary suites to referendum, the District of Highlands is working on the issue too, albeit quietly and slowly.

Over the years Metchosin council has struggled with whether or not to legalize detached suites in the face of passionate residents both for and against.

It’s common knowledge in the rural community that such suites, while illegal, are relatively widespread.

In Highlands secondary suites and detached secondary suites are “not permitted,” said Mayor Jane Mendum adding she is well aware they do exist in Highlands also.

“It’s been a priority for a number of years,” said Mendum adding it’s been on the table of issues since the district incorporated in 1993. “The whole community is aware of this and we need to address it.”

Unlike vocal opponents and proponents in Metchosin, Medum said Highlands residents haven’t made a huge fuss over secondary dwellings.

When the district first incorporated Mendum said many councils in the CRD hadn’t discussed the issue, but now many neighbouring communities have policies in place for secondary suites.

When Highlands council is ready to create a policy on secondary and detached secondary suites, Mendum said her council will use other communities’ policies to help determine its own.

“That will give us some fabulous direction,” Mendum said.

Highlands has hired the Whistler Sustainability Group as a consultant for its integrated community sustainability plan. The sustainability strategy advisory committee has been overseeing the project. The ICSP will cover a variety of issues including the impact of secondary and detached suites.

The ICSP is expected to be finished by June, Mendum said. Once the report is finished council will bring the issue of whether or not to permit secondary suites.

“Every council discusses this and realize it’s a complex issue,” Mendum said. “We want to achieve what the community wants.”

Before Highlands council could approve this option, it needs to ensure there is enough water to accommodate more people.

Highlands has no piped water and residents rely on well water.

Highlands is in its third and final stage of its ground water study. Throughout the phases quantity, quality and data collection results have all be studied.

While council is aware residents have secondary and detached suites on their property, at this time they are unsure what pressure this puts on water sources.

Council will look at existing non-permitted suites as well as the possibilities of permitting them by zone, Mendum said.

If secondary suites are ever permitted, Mendum said it could bring diversity to the district. Currently the district is zoned for single family dwellings.



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