Saanich survey opens the door to more suites

Saanich residents have come out strongly in support of allowing secondary suites in neighbourhoods north of McKenzie Avenue.

The survey results open the door for the municipality to legalize secondary suites in the area just as it has done in the south, Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said.

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“The [survey] answers are fairly consistent with the bylaw we brought in for south of McKenzie. So I think this is going to come out as expected with one bylaw for north and south of McKenzie, but that’s still [the planner’s] report to write,” Leonard said.

Results of the random telephone survey conducted in April and May of 410 residents posted online by the municipality show almost 90 per cent of residents were either supportive or neutral on the issue of secondary suites north of McKenzie. Results from 386 “self-selected” surveys that residents either completed online or on paper were similar, with 79.3 per cent in support or neutral on the idea and 20.6 per cent opposed.

Residents were also open to the idea of secondary suites in outbuildings such as in a converted garage or a purpose-built cottage. The random survey found 73.7 per cent were either supportive or neutral on the idea while the self-selected survey had 69.7 per cent in support and 30.3 opposed.

Leonard called it “remarkable” that the results from the self-selected survey and random survey were relatively similar.

“So that makes it easier for us,” he said, adding that he hopes changes can be made to legalizing the suites by the end of summer.

“It’s the second half of the big step. South of McKenzie was part one and this will complete it,” Leonard said.

In 2010, Saanich council unanimously agreed to legalize secondary suites in the municipality south of McKenzie Avenue, to Tolmie Avenue and to Foul Bay Road. That included neighbourhoods such as Gorge-Tillicum, Rainbow Park, Mount View-Colquitz, Quadra-Cedar Hill, Mount Tolmie and Camosun.

Existing suite regulations permit only one secondary suite per single-family dwelling; the suite must be located inside the house, not in an accessory building. The owner of the house must live on-site; one additional off-street parking spot must be provided for the suite’s tenant, and the suite must pass a building inspection. As well, there can be only two kitchens in the entire building.

Changes for north of McKenzie wouldn’t affect properties outside of the urban containment boundary, which essentially divides sewered urban areas from rural areas, or in Broadmead, which has a covenant against secondary suites, he said.

Leonard said legalizing secondary suites “is not without its critics,” but even under existing regulations Saanich has been “realistic” about enforcement.

“Going through this process, we’re not shutting down suites left, right and centre like we were 20 years ago.”

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

Survey findings

Other findings of the surveys include:

• 48.8 per cent in the self selected survey felt it was important not to allow suites to occupy more than 40 per cent of the dwelling; 20.7 per cent were neutral and 30.4 per cent said it was unimportant. In the random survey, the numbers were: 44.5 per cent important; 32.4 per cent neutral and 23.1 per cent not important.

• 57.5 per cent self-selected respondents said it is important that the appearance of the single family dwelling be maintained; 17.9 per cent were neutral and 24.6 per cent said it was unimportant. In the random survey the numbers were: 52.3 per cent important; 22.8 neutral and 25 per cent not important.

• 70.7 per cent in the self-selected survey thought it important to require an additional parking space; 14.1 per cent were neutral and 15.2 per cent not important. In the random survey, the numbers were: 84.2 per cent important; 10.2 per cent neutral and 5.6 per cent not important.

• 72.1 per cent in the self-selected survey wanted increased enforcement of nuisance bylaws; 16.9 per cent were neutral and 10.9 per cent thought it unimportant. In the random survey ,the numbers were: 76.6 per cent important; 11.2 per cent neutral and 12.3 per cent not important.

• 63.3 per cent in the self-selected survey thought it important to require homes with secondary suites to be owner occupied; 10.4 per cent were neutral and 26.3 per cent not important. In the random survey, the numbers were: 68.6 per cent important; 11.2 per cent neutral and 19.5 per cent not important.

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