Despite receiving several letters in opposition to the proposed plan, city council has approved a development variance permit to allow a local homeowner to build his detached shop.
Matthijs Bruining had applied to the city to build a detached ancillary building in his back yard on Birch Street, but neighbours say they question what its use will be and are worried about it negatively impacting both their views and the character of the neighbourhood.
The construction required a variance permit not due to the size of the proposed structure, but because Bruining was asking to put a second floor on his new building. It would still be smaller than the allowable size, but the amount of floor area proposed due to the second floor of the shop space required a variance.
In short, if it didn’t have a second floor, Bruining could make a much larger structure than the one proposed without even having to ask permission.
Richard Finch, who lives directly behind Bruining, was one of the many property owners in the neighbourhood who expressed a concerns about the proposed building in letters to council, including that Bruining has expressed that the second floor of the structure will possibly be used for office space, which would be against the city’s zoning bylaws.
This was confirmed by development services supervisor Kevin Brooks, who told council Monday that the use of ancillary buildings is, in fact, quite restricted.
“They could use it for studio space or anything of that nature,” Brooks told council. “They, however, cannot use that floor area for use of a residence or home-based business, as those are not allowed in an ancillary building.”
While there were many letters from neighbours opposed to the proposed building, there were also two in favour.
Jeff and Shannon Wainwright expressed their approval saying, “in fact we find it laudable that the applicant, Mr. Bruining, has submitted a plan that drops the overall height of the building below the allowable limit as set by city by-law,” and added that they believe the proponent when he says the structure will not be used as a secondary suite or for commercial purposes.
“On this you can be assured that we will monitor and report any violations,” they wrote.
Coun. Ron Kerr asked Brooks whether there are any mediation processes in place where adjustments to the project could be made to come to some sort of happy medium between the neighbours and the applicant.
“I understand that they can go ahead, basically, under the present zoning and build the building, but in a situation like this, because we’re balancing the right of the neighbourhood against the right of the property owner, is there a process where we can, or staff can mediate some adjustments to the project so that it doesn’t affect the property values or the lifestyles of the neighbourhood?” Kerr asked.
Brooks said while there are no legislated processes in place where the matter could be mediated, “council has the option to defer consideration of this and refer the matter to staff to look at options to work with the neighbourhood and the property owner in that regard.”
Instead, council approved the variance on the recommendation of staff in the report, which warned, “should council deny the variance, it is important to consider that there are no city regulations that would prevent the applicant from removing the second floor (thus eliminating the need for a variance), expanding the footprint to 80 sq/m and increasing the height of the building to 5.0 m, resulting in a larger negative impact on neighbouring properties compared to what is presently proposed.”
The staff report also said, “to avoid similar issues regarding the impact of ancillary buildings on neighbourhood character, staff will be evaluating and potentially revising existing zoning regulations pertaining to ancillary buildings, particularly in residential zones.”