Campbell River city council put the brakes on a possible zoning change Tuesday that could have seen a secondary suite allowed in any single-family home city-wide, but says it will continue to look at ways to get more of them created in the community.
The draft zoning bylaw was being discussed at this week’s Committee of the Whole meeting as council decided whether it should even go to second reading and then on to Public Hearing.
Coun. Claire Moglove, in introducing the bylaw at the meeting, said she thinks the discussion surrounding a blanket zoning for the whole community should at least move forward, and the bylaw can be adjusted throughout the process to address problems with it – such as determining whether it should only be applied to certain regions or neighbourhoods, if that was the will of council.
Moglove says that the No. 1 issue she heard when campaigning for a seat on council was that of housing affordability and lack of housing diversity within the community.
“Then in our first strategic meeting, it seemed everyone had been hearing the same thing, and it seemed to be a very important issue, if not the No. 1 issue,” pointing out that housing was also highlighted as one of the main concerns raised in the city’s recent “satisfaction survey” circulated to the community in the fall.
“It’s such an important issue for the community,” Moglove says, adding that while getting more secondary suites built in the community “is not the be all end all, but it certainly one tool in the toolbox…and there is very strong support in the community for going in this direction.”
But Coun. Ron Kerr, Charlie Cornfield and Kermit Dahl all had enough problems with the bylaw as it was written that they couldn’t support it even moving forward to second reading, let alone go to public hearing.
“Certainly, housing is on top of everybody’s mind,” Kerr admits. “It’s the most important thing, probably, in your life. But in terms of types of housing, there’s a great number other opportunities that aren’t being explored: cooperative housing models, shared housing models, as opposed to the traditional suite-rental model. I think we need to throw a larger net out there and capture more options rather than just focus on one in this process.”
Meanwhile, Cornfield says he’s not convinced allowing more secondary suites will do much of anything to address the problem its meant to address, saying, “it’s the illegal suites that are affordable. It’s not cheap to build to code as a secondary suite, and the more it costs to build the suite, the more the rent is.”
“I think we need to look more at four-plexes and six-plexes and do it in subdivisions where higher densities can be done, and do it in less than two years,” Dahl says. “I don’t think creating one or two secondary suites per month is going to do anything at all.”
Mayor Andy Adams says while he supports the amendment moving forward to public hearing “to give the opportunity for further public dialogue,” he is “not supportive of a blanket zoning city-wide,” suggesting that it move forward only in terms of “new builds.”
Colleen Evans, however, acknowledged the points made by others on council in regards to having more than just this option as a solution, but doesn’t see why it shouldn’t at least move forward so the discussion could continue.
“I see this as an opportunity,” Evans says. “We don’t know how these things are going to impact the market-driven economy … but I feel like we heard from enough people, and when it went to the planning committee it was unanimous that it should move forward.”
In the end, the issue of allowing secondary suites in “all new construction,” as Adams suggested, went ahead, while a blanket zoning amendment did not.
Council did, however, ask for a staff report on other ways that they could streamline and simplify the current secondary suite rezoning process or otherwise encourage more of them to be built under the current system.