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District of Squamish seeks to create new residential zone

The zone would usurp many current residential zones and allow multiple dwelling residences in addition to single and two-unit residences.
An assortment of further changes to the zoning bylaw were discussed extensively by Squamish council on Tuesday, April 9, at a committee of the whole meeting. These particular changes are related to the province’s Bill 44 about small-scale, multi-unit housing

Due to a recent provincial bill, the District of Squamish is seeking to create a new residential zone that would usurp many current residential zones.

An assortment of further changes to the zoning bylaw were discussed extensively by Squamish council on Tuesday, April 9, at a committee of the whole meeting. These particular changes are related to the province’s Bill 44 about small-scale, multi-unit housing.

Importantly, the public will have an opportunity to evaluate and provide comments about the changes on April 30 from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Howe Sound Inn and Brewing, according to a District spokesperson. There will also be a virtual event on May 2 with details coming soon.

Three readings plus adoption will still be needed for the changes to become certain, but the province has given local governments until the end of June to align their zoning with the bill.

According to the District report from the meeting, the municipality seeks to replace a raft of residential zonings with a new zone called residential 1, or R-1. Notably, areas subject to high flood hazards or debris flow are not subjected to the amendment, but details on exact locations still need to be determined.

The R-1 zone would allow what the District is calling a multiple dwelling residential (MDR), which means three or more attached dwelling units, as well as single—and two-unit residences. The maximum height for single- and two-unit housing remains unchanged at nine metres, and an MDR can be either three storeys or 11 metres, whichever is smaller.

Accessory dwelling units (ADUs), or coach houses, will have reduced setbacks and an increased height from 6.7 metres to eight metres. There is other clarifying language proposed about permitting secondary suites and multi-unit flex units, which is a suite inside a townhouse or duplex.

Outside of the new zone, two-unit residences would be allowed on any comprehensive development (CD) or rural residential (RL) zone that already permits a single unit, not located on agricultural land reserve and is serviced by municipal water and sanitary services.

Finally, staff are proposing to eliminate off-street parking requirements for secondary suites, ADUs and multi-unit flex units, meaning street parking could be the only option for these types of dwellings. On the flip side, staff are proposing a parking minimum requirement of one space per unit in an MDR, so a four-unit MDR would require at least four parking spots. The MDR parking proposal goes against provincial guidance, which suggests a maximum of one space per dwelling unit.

Among the many changes, which can be viewed in full on the District’s website, council members believed there may be a lot of public opinion on the changes, with setbacks for ADUs and parking listed as examples.

Coun. Jenna Stoner asked staff to provide as many real-time examples or schematics as possible for the public to peruse. Most council members echoed that comment.

No consensus among council on parking changes

Once again, parking was much debated, and council members' responses varied on the best course of action.

Mayor Armand Hurford said the parking changes had a “good balance,” but provincial funds for transit would be necessary to make them work completely.

“To live up to the aspirations of the province, it does take a commitment from the province to fund things like transit expansion—that we’ve been fighting tooth and nail for—to be able to justify even actions such as this,” he said.

Several other members also thought the parking changes were a decent compromise. However, Councillors Andrew Hamilton and Lauren Greenlaw sat on opposing ends of the seesaw.

“In my mind, it is extremely important that we start to decouple parking from living,” said Hamilton. “It is extremely important that we allow people the opportunity to purchase property without parking, should they want it. By requiring a parking minimum in our bylaw, we are limiting that choice.”

On the contrary, Greenlaw maintained that there should be at least one parking spot per dwelling unit, including for ADUs and the like, and that transit options should become more robust.

“We have so many houses that have six professionals living in it, sharing these rental units and that generally comes with six cars. So, I appreciate that we're trying to cut back on cars, and cut back on housing costs by cutting back on parking areas. But the reality is, I think it's going to introduce a lot of problems for our neighbourhoods,” she said.

Coun. Eric Andersen thought it best to listen to what residents had to say and remain flexible.

“We all need to be sensitive to the insights that our neighbourhoods and citizens can provide. I believe we need to preserve the ability to be neighbourhood and site specific and adaptive in our parking regulations,” he said.

Council unanimously opted for the proposed zoning bylaw changes to be brought forward at a later council meeting for consideration of three readings after the comments. View the discussion on the District’s YouTube channel.

Note: This story was updated on April 16 to reflect information about the upcoming public engagement.


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