A new style of housing might soon be coming to Comox. Council approved a variety of recommendations at Wednesday’s committee of the whole meeting for staff to prepare an Official Community Plan amendment bylaw to create a new development permit area for coach houses.
Coach houses are a new form of ground-oriented infill in single-family residential developments, which fall in line with the adoption of the town’s Housing Affordability Strategy. A key component of the strategy is the removal of regulatory barriers to the development of more affordable market housing, including small-sized rental suites, and reaffirmed with the adoption of the OCP in 2011.
Town planner Marvin Kamenz suggested in his report to council recommendations to the process, including the creation of a series of exemptions to allow developments which meet standard design criteria to proceed without development permit application; application fees for rezoning for a coach house be $250 with expedited processing; no requirement to erect a development sign for a coach house rezoning application although the town would specify mail-out notifications of coach house rezoning applications to the adjacent property owners and tenants.
Kamenz said he made the recommendations to condense the process for residents. “If we’re going to do this, we won’t be dealing with developers, we’re going to be dealing with property owners,” he explained. “They want something that is plug and play.” He added processing will be key, and wants to ensure a smooth application for residents, with what he estimates between 90 to 95 per cent of applicants would not require a development permit.
Coun. Patti Fletcher questioned why coach houses could not be located above a garage, decreasing the footprint on a homeowner’s property. Kamenz said based on other municipalities such as Vancouver which currently have coach houses, the garages generally “just becomes a two-storey dorm.” He added one-storey buildings aid in accessibility, particularly with an older population. She suggested an amendment to the recommendation for an allowance for two-storey coach houses on a site-specific basis.
Coun. Maureen Swift inquired about the tree rentention recommendation to replace one tree on a property if required to remove a tree more than 20 cm in diameter to obtain the maximum coach house size. “It feels a little prescriptive,” she said. “Where to place trees should be left up to the property owner.”
Coun. Barbara Price expressed her concern about “going backwards in our tree retention policy.” She noted when development is proposed, a main concern heard from the public is the retention/replacement of trees.
Swift asked for an amendment on the tree retention recommendation, which was defeated with Price, Fletcher, Coun. Hugh MacKinnon and Mayor Paul Ives opposing the motion. The motion was carried without the amendment. Fletcher’s amended motion for two-storey coach houses was passed, along with a recommendation to allow for a 14-day mail out notification time along with a variety of other recommendations. They will now be forwarded for council to approve at the July 17 council meeting.