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City of Powell River updates carriage house bylaws

Councillors pass motions to allow changes in regulations
MAKING AMENDMENTS: City of Powell River councillors voted to amend the sustainable official community plan and zoning bylaw to allow for revisions to the policy governing carriage houses.

City of Powell River Council has passed bylaws that modify carriage house regulations.

At a March 16 meeting, councillors accepted a report on the public hearing held March 2 into changes in the carriage house regulations, as well as voting to amend the sustainable official community plan and the zoning bylaw.

During discussion on the public hearing, councillor George Doubt, city portfolio holder for planning, said the change to carriage house regulations has been in the offing for a long time, having been worked on by the planning department after several steps of consultation with the community. He said the last one was the public hearing, and by his recollection, no one showed up to make any comment.

“I take from that personally that it has widespread support and no opposition in the community,” said Doubt. “I’m in favour of this. It improves people’s access to carriage houses, it improves the sizes that can be built, and the locations where they will be built, and it will reduce the number of requests for approvals that have to come to city council.

“My belief is the carriage house program has been a real success in providing another type of housing and another type of infill for the community.”

Council voted in favour of accepting the report on the public hearing.

Council then considered amending the city’s sustainable official community plan (SOCP). Doubt said this would be the bylaw that would put in the rules that are changing to make it easier to build a carriage house, to increase the number of places they can be situated on properties, and to provide less work for council in making approvals.

“It is a move in a positive direction and I support it,” said Doubt.

Council voted in favour of the SOCP amendments.

The matter of amending the zoning bylaw for carriage houses was next on the agenda.

Councillor Rob Southcott said he wanted to say a word of appreciation for the city’s planning staff, who, over the past few years, have been very responsive to residents who want to build carriage houses that didn’t exactly fit into previous regulations. He said staff have done a lot of work to modify the SOCP and zoning bylaws to put the changes into firm policy.

“I appreciate their hardworking engagement with our community, their responsiveness, and also the vision to do the very best we can for housing here, which we acknowledge has been in crisis for a long time,” said Southcott.

Councillor Cindy Elliott said the carriage house bylaw had been brought in during a previous term of council and staff has brought forward all their learning since the city passed the original bylaw. The latest council was new when planning brought the revisions to the bylaws forward and councillors did a crash course and learned, handing the bylaws back for some revisions, she added.

“Staff incorporated those, working well with council on that, and I am really proud of our council, which was brand new, to be able to participate in making these revisions, and the staff for working so hard with us,” said Elliott.

Councillor Trina Isakson said some of the major changes made are related to addressing the fact that sometimes, people don’t want to build a new carriage house, but want to convert something into a carriage house.

“It required some flexibility on where a carriage house might be sited, or what the size might be,” said Isakson. “It also allows for something like a loft or mezzanine, as long as it fits within height regulations and the BC Building Code.

“We’ve made a couple of fixes that allow for more flexibility and more opportunity for more living space for people that are building or converting existing units into carriage houses.”

Council voted in favour of the zoning bylaw amendment.