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'Monster homes' bylaw proposed

Sylvie Paillard spaillard@squamishchief.

Sylvie Paillard

Due to "growing concerns from the public" the District of Squamish is hoping to pass a bylaw that would limit the size of homes on lots zoned for single family dwellings or duplexes, stated a district news release Wednesday (March 29).

"In the last year or six months there seems to be more [large homes] cropping up, they're almost springing up daily," said acting mayor Corinne Lonsdale. "If you go around and look downtown there are a lot of new ones that have come up in the last six months, so council was very, very concerned and wanted to see this issue addressed sooner as opposed to later."

Any new building permit applications that are in serious contravention of the proposed bylaw will now be put on hold by the building inspector for a maximum of 90 days or until council passes the bylaw. If the bylaw fails, applicants could be entitled to compensation.

District planning department staff held an information meeting Monday (March 27) to explain what the proposed zoning amendment bylaw entailed. A small group of curious and seemingly supportive residents attended the meeting where Sabina Foofat of the planning department explained that the district currently has no floor area ratio in low-density zones. The floor area ratio is the formula used to determine the total allowable building area in relation to the size of the lot.

The current unlimited floor area ratio combined with the district's allowance for three-storey residential buildings can result in single-family and duplex densities totaling 100 per cent of the property's capacity. Those who oppose monster homes are concerned with the neighbourhood style, lighting and view corridors as well as pressures on municipal services such as water and sewer.

A planning staff presentation of the proposed bylaw at a Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday, March 21, suggested that houses be limited to 33 per cent of lot size with the second floor footprint being limited to 80 per cent of the first floor, and the third floor limited to 80 per cent of the second floor. Areas of the home that will not be considered floor space are basements, areas where the ceiling height is less than five feet and garages to a maximum of 600 square feet. Secondary suites are calculated as part of the floor area, which may be viewed by some as furthering Squamish's affordable housing crisis, but that may be offset by another amendment in the bylaw that allows for carriage suites for the first time. Carriage suites are not attached to the main house, and are typically found above a garage.

"By introducing the carriage house concept at the same time, you've given more opportunity for a secondary suite, so one will hopefully offset the other," said Lonsdale.

Some residents present at Monday's information meeting suggested that the new limits were still not enough, others had questions specific to their situations. Foofat said that details needed to be ironed out before the public hearing, scheduled to take place at the April 4 council meeting.

"We have strived not to be overly prescriptive, with the goal of producing contemporary residential massing and character, but still allowing for flexibility and creativity in housing design," stated the staff report.