Call them “coach houses” or “garden suites,” but don’t call them “granny flats.”
That was the informal consensus among Gibsons councillors and staff as council voted on May 20 to give first reading to a zoning bylaw that would allow coach houses — also known as garden suites — on properties within the town’s designated low-density infill areas.
Before going any further, however, staff will first consult with property owners around Glassford, Cochrane and Burns roads to determine if there is interest in allowing coach houses on properties there with lane access.
The concept of coach houses — a detached home behind the main house on the property, but not subdivided — was identified in Gibsons’ 2005 official community plan as supportable for future neighbourhoods in Upper Gibsons and Gospel Rock and existing neighbourhoods in the harbour area and Creekside/Hillcrest.
Following public consultations earlier this year, staff removed Heritage Hills from the list, as some residents felt the area was too steep and lot sizes were too small.
While the Town is looking at designated infill areas to introduce the concept, chief administrative officer Mani Machado said each application would be assessed individually through a development permit process.
“It’s not based on whether it’s on a particular street that it gets approved,” Machado said. “It’s through the criteria of the development permit, because there are so many things to consider. The details are the part that really matters.”
These would include view protection and privacy, green space, parking and neighbourhood character fit.
Under director of planning André Boel’s revised parameters, floor area would be 0.14 times the area of a lot to a maximum of 90 square metres (969 square feet), with the opportunity for owners to request a variance for a larger floor area.
Height would be six metres (20 feet) outside the view protection area (VPA) and four metres (13 feet) within the VPA.
Setback requirements would be the same as those for accessory buildings.
In his report, Boel said staff were recommending the use of the term “garden suite” instead of “coach house” as the latter implies the presence of an enclosed garage with a suite above, but the concept being explored would not necessarily need to include an enclosed garage.
Coun. Dan Bouman, speaking at council’s committee of the whole meeting on May 13, said he hoped the term “granny flat” could be avoided and suggested “grandparent flat” would be more suitable.
Boel said he agreed and “didn’t like granny flats at all.”
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