Secondary Suites Discussion Continues

The Secondary Suites discussion hit the Collingwood Council table on Monday March 26th.

The purpose of STAFF REPORT #P2018-08 was to provide Council with an analysis regarding a proposed zoning by-law amendment to permit additional opportunities for secondary suites. The report recommended that Council enact and pass an amending Zoning By-law to permit additional opportunities for secondary suites.

Council voted in favour of the motion to pass a by-law under the provision of Section 34 of the Planning Act, R.S.O. 1990, C. P.13, as amended, to permit additional opportunities for secondary suites. The amendment was to remove town houses from the motion.

Secondary Suites as defined as being self-contained residential units with private kitchen and bathroom facilities within dwellings or within structures that are accessory to dwellings.

Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson said he sees the secondary suites initiative as a big opportunity for Collingwood for a number of reasons. Some of the discussion around the table took a negative view on intensification and increased demand for parking.

Councillor Mike Edwards was not in favour of accepting the recommendations in the staff report, citing existing and possible future parking issues as a reason for concern.

“I’m really not in favour of this at this point. We always need more rental units but quite frankly I don’t think really this is the way to do it. With a lot of the rental units we have at this time in town I believe we’ve created a lot of parking issues and this would just further add to that. When I say parking issues to be more specific we’ve got single dwellings and semi-detached dwellings where people are parking on boulevards, parking on front lawns and quite frankly I think distracting from the value of other home owners that don’t have apartments in their buildings.”

The Deputy Mayor said that parking issues may be a concern and should be dealt with, but as a separate issue.

“With intensification and parking, we have the telescope backwards. We need the bigger vision. We should be looking at the lens outward at what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Councillor Edwards went on to say that in addition to the parking issue, he was against the construction of coach houses on neighbourhood properties.

“Also if we look at coach houses, I’ll be quite frank, I wouldn’t want somebody building a coach house in the garden next to me and I think again it would take away from value of that property.”

Councillor Deb Doherty said she supported Councillor Edwards’ comments speaking against the creation of garden suites in town home and semi-detached units.

“I also think that there is already too much density and issues with parking in those neighbourhoods which are comprised primarily of town homes and this will only exacerbate that. Right now there is only 78 accessory apartments in a stock of 5500 single family dwellings so I would think that we haven’t nearly exhausted the demand to install accessory apartments and I think overall that it would allow for a more balanced densification to occur around the community.”

Councillor Kathy Jeffery said that she has heard complaints from professional people in Collingwood that the town doesn’t have affordable accommodation opportunities for young professionals to allow them to move to and work in the town.

“We have so very little ability to impact our rental situation other than through policies that I think this is a very credible one for us. I think if we don’t want to continue chewing up green space and we want to bring more young professionals and make it affordable for them to be here and work and to make it more affordable for people to own their homes and stay in their homes in what is an increasingly difficult market to exist in, I really hesitate to penalise such a good idea on a parking issue we may or may not have under control.”

Jeffery said the Town needs to fix the parking situation as a separate matter.

Councillor Bob Madigan supported the staff report recommendation.

“I feel this is an obvious move in the right direction to keep people in the area. We have a lot of transitional employees in the area and I think this will help them and help the people to be able to stay in their houses.”

Typically secondary suites take the form of:

• accessory apartments within a primary dwelling unit (which may be a single, semi or townhouse dwelling unit);
• garden suites (a dwelling unit in a detached building accessory to a primary dwelling unit); and,
• coach houses (a dwelling unit above or attached to a detached garage accessory to a primary dwelling unit).

Deputy Mayor Saunderson said that over the period of 2014 to 2018 the Town has seen 78 secondary suites developed. He then pointed out that during that same period of time over 1300 residential units have been constructed in Collingwood including 503 singles and semi-detached and 369 town houses. He said 439 apartments have been or will soon be created over the 2014 – 2018 period including the 147 affordable units presently under construction at High Street and Second Street at a $40 million cost to the County.

Construction continues at High and Second Streets on new affordable housing

“Our vacancy rate in Collingwood is less than 1.4 percent. You need 3 percent or more to have a healthy rental inventory. If you don’t have a healthy rental inventory my submission is you’re not going to move forward in your affordable housing targets and you are going to have a great deal of difficulty in moving forward in attracting young starting families to our community, or those who are on a fixed budget if they can’t afford to live here. “

If people can’t afford to live in Collingwood then it’s difficult for them to work here

Saunderson is concerned that Collingwood continues to be too expensive a place for young people to live and work.

“We’ve discussed around this table many times the importance of transportation and making that a part of our complete community. To me a complete community includes safe and affordable housing. I see this as a very important step in moving that bar forward.”

Some councilors were concerned with possible parking issues that could develop with the creation of additional secondary suites in the town, especially parking on boulevards.

Saunderson pointed out that there currently is no bylaw prohibiting parking on boulevards, stating that a perceived parking issue in the Town needs to be its own topic of discussion.

“Written into this staff report are very stringent requirements for frontage for lot sizes to ensure that there is adequate space and that there is adequate parking for the additional residential burden on that property to keep it off the streets and off the grass. So while I am sympathetic to the parking issues I think there are other ways to address that and to short circuit this entire initiative which is I think very critical for any number of reasons in our community I think is coming at it from the wrong end. When you look at the densification of 78 secondary suites compared to 1300 residential units during the same time period it’s not a huge densification burden at all.

Saunderson pointed to the developments of Perfect World and Monaco, (and hopefully the Annex at some point) as being examples of how the town’s densification is intensifying.

“We look at what’s going on at Eden Oak and Links View and we tell those people that these are the new guidelines that we have to operate on and then we’re not prepared to do the densification in a current residential area were the infrastructure is in place. I don’t think is a good message.”

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