Council will have to be very careful saying ‘no’ to those seeking variances for existing coachhouses.
Certainly there has to be debate on the merits of each variance request, but the first person or couple with pockets deep enough for a good lawyer could prevail in a claim against the town because of the way the secondary suites issue has been handled.
It’s not that the owners followed the lead of the town in its visioning process and subsequent declaration of wanting to provide affordable housing.
It’s not that people were proactive in building an opportunity for affordable housing and following the guidelines of other Vancouver Island communities while we made up our minds.
The tactical error in the war on two-storied coach houses was granting immunity to all in-house suites, even going so far as waiving building permit fees for upgrades to their existing, and previously illegal suites, all the while charging those with coach houses, at minimum, a variance request fee of $750 for the privilege of being rejected.
To treat two groups of citizens, albeit with different configurations of “illegal” suites, in a different manner, is fundamentally unfair. The folks with in-house suites should each have been required to submit variance requests too, or at minimum get a development permit.
Our town is now divided because of this issue. Mistakes were made. As Councillors oft time will say, “difficult decisions” have to be made. Before the town is sued, and while the cost will only be thousands of dollars instead of hundreds of thousands, make the admittedly difficult decision and grant the same immunity to owners of pre-existing coach houses as to owners of in-house suites.
Bill Drysdale, Ladysmith