Ladysmith builder hoping to attract more families to High Street

Todd Hancock has applied for a development variance permit to built three homes on three small lots in Ladysmith.

Ladysmith builder Todd Hancock says he is trying to attract more families with his latest project.

Hancock has applied for a development variance permit for the development of three single-family residential lots at 517 High St. His application was approved by Ladysmith council on Jan. 21.

Hancock is proposing variances for three lots, which are each 278 square metres in size. One dwelling currently straddles two of the lots, and Hancock is proposing that the existing dwelling be demolished and that three new homes be constructed on the three narrow lots, which would require variances.

The lots are zoned Urban Residential Zone (R-2). The properties are narrow at 7.6 metres by 36.5 metres (25 feet by 120 feet), and to achieve one dwelling and one accessory building on each of the three lots, Hancock is requesting to vary the side yard setback for the dwellings from three metres to 1.5 metres, to vary one side yard setback for the accessory buildings from 1.5 metres to one metre, to vary the minimum finished floor area for the dwellings from 83 square metres to 71 square metres, and to vary the minimum horizontal building dimension for the dwellings from 6.5 metres to 4.5 metres.

The other regulations in the R-2 Zone have been met, and the proposed building height, at seven metres, is two metres lower than the permitted height, according to the staff report from Felicity Adams, the town’s director of development services.

Bara Fallows, who lives directly beside the property, spoke against the development during the Jan. 21 council meeting at which council discussed Hancock’s application. She is concerned that allowing this to go ahead would set a precedent in town.

“For me, it seems like a precedent being set by this, so while it is in fact a variance he’s asking for, it is totally changing a 75-foot property into three separate houses and three separate properties,” she said. “I just think there should be more public consideration because it seems to me it’s sort of rushed.”

Fallows wondered if more people who live on High Street should have been consulted – not just the residents right in the vicinity of the proposal – and she also pointed out that the town is in the process of reviewing its Zoning Bylaw, and she asked why this application couldn’t wait until that process.

“My preference would be that you would wait, that there would be a bit more review, that there would be more information from the rest of the street because all of these lots are the same,” she said.

Local historian Rob Johnson pointed out that the lots on High Street and Esplanade have always been 25 feet, and he has never been able to find out what the rationale was. “The question I have is once you have the variance, you have an opportunity to have it reproduced not only up and down High Street, but also along Esplanade, and is that really what the town wants?” he said. “I know the town is looking at the question of affordable housing and low price points, but if you’re reviewing the whole concept of re-zoning, the issue of these 25-foot lots should be addressed.”

Hancock emphasized that he is not asking for a re-zoning because the lots are zoned for single-family development — he is just asking for some relaxations to be able to build on the lots.

“I’m just asking for a five-foot side yard on both sides, similar to what’s happened out near the soccer field, similar to what’s going on in Cedarwood,” he said. “Yes, I can respect that there’s going to be three brand-new shiny houses in an older neighbourhood; these houses are not going to be sticking up in the air; I’ve squatted them down, the construction’s going to be quality.”

Hancock told council he has talked to 13 of the 18 people who received the town’s notice about his application, and he couldn’t find anybody who had any concerns.

“The property in question is derelict; there’s no fixing it up and selling it,” he said. “I’ve got interest in them already.”

Hancock told council he is proposing a single-car garage in the back of each lot and is asking for the variances to give each lot a little more room at the back and encourage the homeowners to park off the street and into the lane.

“I’m just trying to clean that portion of the neighbourhood up,” he said. “It fits right in with the visioning and what the people asked for in the visioning — they want density, they want smaller lots, they want family-type homes. It’s close to the schools, it’s close to the trails, it’s close to downtown. It’s bringing three more families to live in town instead of one derelict house that is being rented right now and is in major disrepair. I do sit on some of the boards in town with the Advisory Planning Commission, I sat in on the Official Community Plan visioning meetings we had, so I have a feeling of what the town wants, and I’m just trying to provide some of that.”

Coun. Gord Horth supported the application, explaining that what Hancock is proposing fits better with “old town” than other examples he sees in other older neighbourhoods, such as Gatacre Street.

“I like the scale of it,” he said. “I have looked at Mr. Hancock’s buildings, and he’s a good builder. Staff has some control over things because it’s a development variance permit … I think it will fit in.”

Coun. Steve Arnett was also supportive.

“The fact that this is a price point for attracting families into a town that is projecting a large population of seniors is one of the reasons I’m voting for it,” he said.

Coun. Glenda Patterson spoke against the application, saying that two houses would probably have appealed to her more than three.

“I know you do good work; I’m just not in favour of three homes on three small lots,” she said.

She was the only councillor to vote against the application.

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