RDEK crafting secondary suites bylaw for Columbia Valley
Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) directors in the Columbia Valley are bracing for what they fear will be a contentious process, after the board unanimously agreed May 5 to direct regional staff to begin developing a bylaw to include secondary suites in all residential zones within the Upper Columbia Valley Zoning Bylaw.
Secondary suites are proposed to be permitted in single family dwellings and detached garages and initial consideration of the bylaw is anticipated at the RDEK June meeting.
“I am somewhat… a little bit reserved with blanketing all the Columbia Valley. I know there are some smaller communities that don’t want it,” remarked Electoral Area F director Wendy Booth, adding she isn’t sure about the idea herself yet.
“It’s a fact of life now that housing is one of the most difficult things for people. The ownership of housing… we have to provide a mix of housing and it is long overdue,” said Electoral Area G director Gerry Wilkie.
District of Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft told the board his town has had legalized secondary suites “for quite a while. It’s the reality of the Columbia Valley, I feel. It only makes sense to regulate them” for the sake of safety, parking etc., he said.
Board chair, Electoral Area C director Rob Gay, agreed with Taft. “It’s the right thing to do. Legalizing these suites makes them follow code.”
And Electoral Area A director Mike Sosnowski noted successes in the Elk Valley from legalizing secondary suites, including a boon to construction jobs.
“I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the economic spinoff,” he told Booth and Wilkie.
RDEK planner Karen MacLeod stated in a report to the board that planning staff has received few comments following an initial foray into informing Columbia Valley residents about plans to legalize secondary suites, which are abundant throughout the valley.
“Presentations on secondary suites and the proposed amendment were made at the town hall meetings within the Upper Columbia Valley. A total of 121 people attended these four meetings and staff received three comments regarding secondary suites during that process. As a result of the lack of response and in discussion with Director Booth, an information meeting was held in April for identified community associations. Representatives from Fairmont Hot Springs Community Association, Fairmont Business Association, Timber Ridge Community Association, Columbia Ridge Estates, Columere Park, Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce and Spirit’s Reach developments attended,” MacLeod reported.
“The concerns discussed were those historically identified in other communities; however, the possibility of the increase in short term rentals and the added pressure secondary suites could cause on existing amenities and services was of chief concern. Additional subjects discussed were the cost and responsibility that would fall to the developer if building schemes needed to be registered and enforced to prohibit secondary suites and how the RDEK would ensure that the current illegal suites could be brought into compliance. Support for secondary suites was also heard citing suites as a form of affordable accommodation, creating an atmosphere where young families could rent and save for a starter home and providing an avenue for expanding businesses to be able to ensure their new employees can obtain housing,” MacLeod told the board.