City coun­cil to ex­am­ine pro­posed stan­dards for back­yard suites

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - YOLANDE COLE [email protected]­

Pro­posed stan­dards for back­yard suites are set to go be­fore city coun­cil Mon­day, with changes aimed at ad­dress­ing pri­vacy con­cerns for neigh­bour­ing yards and the ef­fects of build­ing height and size.

The re­vised stan­dards come after coun­cil voted last March to add sec­ondary suites and back­yard suites as a dis­cre­tionary use in the re­main­ing neigh­bour­hoods where the suites were not al­lowed. Be­fore al­low­ing back­yard suites in these ar­eas, coun­cil di­rected staff to come back with re­stric­tive stan­dards for suite de­sign in all lan­duse dis­tricts.

A back­yard suite, also known as a laneway house, car­riage house, gar­den suite or garage suite, is a sec­ond res­i­dence be­hind or be­side a pri­mary res­i­dence. In a pro­posed “how-to guide” on back­yard suite de­sign, the res­i­dences are de­scribed as pro­vid­ing flex­i­bil­ity for home­own­ers in sit­u­a­tions such as the need to pro­vide a home for an ag­ing par­ent, to sup­ple­ment in­come with rent or to house a care­giver.

The guide out­lines de­sign prin­ci­ples in­clud­ing build­ing place­ment, sun­light and shad­ow­ing, height, win­dow and bal­cony place­ment, and ac­cess.

In­ner-city Coun. Druh Far­rell, long a pro­po­nent of al­ter­nate hous­ing types, said the stan­dards will help im­prove the qual­ity of de­sign and take into ac­count “the in­ter­face be­tween neigh­bours.”

“I an­tic­i­pate that it will help pro­vide di­rec­tion for peo­ple who are seek­ing laneway units,” she said. “And we’re cer­tainly see­ing more and more built in Cal­gary.”

Coun. Ge­orge Cha­hal said back­yard suites are a good hous­ing op­tion, par­tic­u­larly where there is a rear lane and suf­fi­cient park­ing.

“It can pro­vide a home­owner who’s been maybe re­sid­ing on the prop­erty for a num­ber of years ad­di­tional in­come,” he said. “Also, an op­por­tu­nity to get some­body to help out on the site as well, whether it be cut­ting grass or shov­el­ling snow ... it’s an­other form of hous­ing that could al­low many in our com­mu­ni­ties to age in place.”

Staff are propos­ing a se­ries of amend­ments to the land use by­law to:

■ Re­duce the max­i­mum build­ing height at the side and rear prop­erty lines shared with an­other res­i­den­tial prop­erty;

■ Spec­ify that bal­conies be lo­cated ei­ther fac­ing the lane or the yard shared with the main house, and that por­tions of the bal­cony that are close to a neigh­bour­ing yard be screened for pri­vacy;

■ And in­crease build­ing sepa­ra­tion dis­tance and yard area.

“The rec­om­mended amend­ments to the Suites Pol­icy, the Back­yard Suite How-to Guide and as­so­ci­ated land use by­law amend­ments will en­cour­age wellde­signed back­yard suites that fit bet­ter in ex­ist­ing neigh­bour­hoods, in­creas­ing sup­port for the form and there­fore con­tribut­ing to in­creas­ing hous­ing op­tions and den­sity at a scale that fits with the neigh­bour­hood,” the staff re­port reads.

The re­port urges coun­cil to hold a pub­lic hear­ing, adopt the by­law amend­ments and adopt pro­posed changes to the back­yard suites pol­icy.

The staff rec­om­men­da­tions fol­low a con­sul­ta­tion process that in­volved work­shops with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions and an on­line sur­vey. Con­sid­er­a­tions iden­ti­fied by par­tic­i­pants in­cluded park­ing, a need for clearly de­fined guide­lines, main­tain­ing com­mu­nity char­ac­ter and tak­ing neigh­bour pri­vacy con­cerns into ac­count.

When coun­cil ap­proved sec­ondary suite re­forms in March, it also adopted a by­law re­quir­ing ev­ery suite to be reg­is­tered with the city to en­sure they meet safety-code stan­dards, and passed a two-year amnesty pe­riod for de­vel­op­ment per­mit fees.

Ac­cord­ing to city staff, the num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions sub­mit­ted for sec­ondary suites has in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly since the changes, go­ing from fewer than 30 de­vel­op­ment per­mit ap­pli­ca­tions in April to nearly 60 in Oc­to­ber.


Coun­cil is set to look at pro­posed stan­dards for sec­ondary suites that fo­cus on pri­vacy con­cerns.


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