Whitehorse Daily Star

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City planner Mike Ellis

Homeowners seek zoning change to create rental suites

Two new living units would be added to Copper Ridge if the city approves a zoning change for 112 and 114 North Star Dr.

By Stephanie Waddell on February 26, 2018

Two new living units would be added to Copper Ridge if the city approves a zoning change for 112 and 114 North Star Dr.

The proposed zoning amendments came forward at last Monday’s city council meeting.

City planner Mike Ellis explained that the two next-door neighbours made the application to allow separate living suites in their homes.

“The only proposed change is to allow for a maximum of one living suite per property,” he said. “The properties are in the RR-Restricted Residential Detached zone, which currently does not allow suites.”

Of the 966 single-detached lots in the Copper Ridge neighbourhood, a total of 120 are zoned as RR.

Ellis then went on to cite the results of a 2016 survey sent out to all RR property owners about allowing living suites in the zone.

Of the 25 per cent of all owners who responded, a total of 55 per cent supported changing the zoning to permit suites in the zone.

Those who supported the change told the city the lots and buildings are large enough for living suites.

They said it could help provide more affordable housing in the city, and that they should be permitted in all residential zones to promote higher-density housing.

Meanwhile, those with concerns argued they had purchased their houses in the RR zone because of the restrictions which prohibit suites.

They said they have made a large investment in their RR property and don’t want changes.

Adding suites could result in more traffic and parking issues and would have a negative impact on property values, they argued.

Along with Copper Ridge, the neighbourhoods of Logan, Porter Creek and Whistle Bend also have properties zoned RR.

“The zone was originally created prior to the concept of promoting denser development and instead places emphasis on larger, more exclusive estate lots,” Ellis stated in his report to council.

“Houses in the RR zone typically have the floor area to accommodate living suites and can help owners to age in place by encouraging other family members to reside there.”

Living suites are limited to a 100 square metre floor area and require an off-street parking space.

“These regulations are meant to ensure that living suites remain secondary to the principal residents and have a low impact on the surrounding neighbourhood,” the report stated.

“Allowing living suites on the subject lots would likely have little impact to the surrounding neighbourhood from a traffic, parking or privacy perspective.”

Along with looking at the zoning, Ellis also pointed to the Official Community Plan (OCP).

He noted that area of North Star is designated as Residential-Urban, which allows for different types of residential development close to services and amenities.

“The properties are located within walking distance of North Star transit stops, parks and trails,” Ellis noted in the report.

He went on to highlight sections 5.1.3 and 20.2.3 of the OCP. They call for more city-wide compact development to minimize urban sprawl and for a diversity of housing types that “are accessible to a wide range of people.”

The Sustainability Plan also includes a strategy to use planning, zoning and development tools to encourage affordable housing.

“Living suites provide additional dwelling units where there are now existing municipal services such as sanitary, water, waste collection and transit,” stated the report to council.

“Living suites also provide rental income to homeowners and housing options to tenants, which assists with housing affordability.”

Coun. Dan Boyd commented that the city may want to send out notices to all RR property owners about the proposed zoning change for the two Copper Ridge properties.

Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, responded that it’s a zoning change to two specific properties, not the entire RR zone.

Consequently, such a move could be viewed as “inappropriate,” Gau said.

Council could consider another process if it wanted to consider such a change to the entire zone.

First reading of the zoning amendment for the two North Star properties is slated to come forward for a vote by council this evening.

If that is passed, a public hearing would be held March 26.

A report on the public input would then be presented to council at its April 3 meeting, followed by a vote on the final two readings on April 9.

Comments (7)

Up 1 Down 0

yukonmom on Mar 2, 2018 at 7:29 pm

Get a group together and tell the city you will get a lawyer. Someone needs to stand up to the city to stop this spot rezoning. It creates a lot of uncertainty. People buy in an area because of the zoning, then someone gets a bright idea, talks to the right people and gets a rezoning that affects the neighbours' enjoyment of their property. They say it doesn't set a precedent but of course it does. if you paid extra for your property because of that zoning go for it. Tell them if it goes ahead you will be wanting a refund for the cost differential of your zoning.

Up 0 Down 0

Reality check on Mar 1, 2018 at 5:59 am

@ CJ: Parking issues! You bet!

Look at the small town of Canmore, AB for example: Lots of houses, duplexes and townhouses have an "in-law*suite" (legal or not - because the landlords know how to make money, too in this "nightmare rental market"). They have usually a garage and a driveway for one more car.

But if you have maybe 6 people living in one dwelling and there are 3 or 4 cars? The streets and driveways are packed with vehicles, sometimes a snow plow has difficulties to squeeze through!

Happy times for the property owners are coming...

Up 2 Down 0

CJ on Feb 28, 2018 at 12:40 pm

“The zone was originally created prior to the concept of promoting denser development and instead places emphasis on larger, more exclusive estate lots,” Ellis stated in his report to council.

The wording is a little manipulative, no? Words like "exclusive" and "estate lots" are bound to trigger a certain reaction. The zoning could also be described as providing choices for the market in the area, or part of a "diversity of housing types". I'm sure the owners pay for the privilege. And 120 lots zoned that way amounts to 12 percent of the total. That doesn't seem unreasonable.

I'm a little skeptical about homeowners being landlords. It's not for everyone, and by that I mean they could be successful in getting zoning changed for something that never happens (I don't mean these applicants personally, but in general). Much like the crematorium in Porter Creek, that 10 years after the fact, still doesn't have the family home that was supposedly the real reason it had to go there.

As for city planners determining there won't be any parking issues -- they will never acknowledge parking issues. They can turn any "parking issues" into a prohibition or metered parking situation or a "sustainability initiative".

Up 4 Down 0

Bill on Feb 27, 2018 at 1:49 pm

So those of us who have purchased RR zoned properties, paid a premium for the same and also pay a higher municipal tax rate than non RR zoned properties are now losing certain designations that bring these properties in line with non RR zoned properties??? Let me guess that the City will not be reducing our municipal tax rate to now fall in line with non RR zoned properties. There needs to be some form of certainty with the rules the City has in place and not pick and choose which amendments to support - ridiculous!

Up 1 Down 0

Josey Wales on Feb 27, 2018 at 1:07 pm

Hey joe....heard you shot your civic team down?
Hendrix aside, joe unfortunately, the nobles upon you sharing that thought?
Most certainly would get a good behind the moat chuckle from said nobles “naive subject” would cross most of their entitled minds.
Our civic nobles will do as they please, lording over us, like those before them...
Lather, rinse...repeat, look around this “community” the evidence of their arrogance and ineptness is omnipresent!

Up 2 Down 0

ProScience Greenie on Feb 27, 2018 at 12:33 pm

Follow the money Joe.

Up 6 Down 0

Joe on Feb 26, 2018 at 3:50 pm

Why does the city keep messing with zoning? I bought property specifically because it is designated RR with the understanding I paid more for that zoning and that it would remain that way.

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