Quesnel council has adopted the bylaws that will allow secondary suites in the city.
At its Dec. 17 meeting, council adopted its Official Community Plan (Bylaw 1879) and its Zoning Bylaw (Bylaw 1880).
An Official Community Plan (OCP) is a statement of objectives and policies to guide decisions on planning and land use management, within the area covered by the plan, respecting the purposes of local government, while zoning bylaws regulate how land, buildings and other structures may be used.
This year, the OCP has added a new section on First Nation Collaboration to ensure there is “recognition of First Nations habitation of our community since time immemorial and the injustices and ongoing impacts of residential schools have on this population.”
Other major changes include a Hillside Hazardous Development Permit Area for all the areas in the community identified as a geotechnical concern, more opportunity to allow reinvestment on existing developed sites in the West Quesnel Land Stability Study Area where there are no signs of differential movement on the site, and the addition of a Floodplain Hazardous Area Development Permit Area.
In terms of housing, changes are being made to allow secondary suites in all single detached residential homes in the city, and to allow secondary dwellings, which are commonly referred to as coach houses, and carriages houses.
Provisions have also been added to the OCP to highlight support for urban agriculture, and policies in the Zoning Bylaw will now allow for hobby beekeeping and backyard hens.
Coun. Ron Paull has spoken up consistently against allowing secondary suites unless there is a provision that specifies they must be owner-occupied, and because that provision is not included, he voted against the OCP.
“I’m not going to rehash all that has been said by myself and others over the last five years, but I am opposed to the Official Community Plan, only on one issue, and that is obviously secondary suite and particularly the fact that we’re moving ahead without the owner-occupied requirement,” he said. “In fact, I said at the last council meeting that I would reluctantly vote in favour of the Official Community Plan if there was a requirement in there that the [suites be] owner-occupied. During the public hearing process, there were some very good ideas, in my opinion, that were advanced, and it’s unfortunate that we don’t have an opportunity after the public hearing to sort of debate among ourselves some of those ideas that were advanced, which included … the ideas of a phased approach for certain areas rather than sort of homogenizing the entire city as we are doing with this bylaw; there was another suggestion too that the owner-occupied provision be tried on for size because once this bylaw is adopted, there’s no turning back. This is final; this is permanent.”
Paull pointed out that all three people who spoke at the Dec. 3 public hearing were opposed to secondary suites and “a vast majority” of the 39 written submissions the City received were also opposed to that provision.
Paull did vote to adopt the Zoning Bylaw, and that adoption was unanimous. This bylaw legalizes secondary suites.
“Yes, I could easily vote against the Zoning Bylaw as well, but it’s the Official Community Plan that enables secondary suites,” said Paull. “I voted in favour of readings No. 1, 2 and 3 [of the Zoning Bylaw].”