The following is the GHRA response to the Proposal to allow Garden Suites in Saanich



The Gordon Head Residents’ Association would like to state from the outset that we are not opposed to the construction of legal garden suites in our neighbourhood. We realize that our community is changing and will continue to evolve in the years ahead.


However, we believe that this issue requires further consideration of several important aspects as policies and bylaws are developed.


Economics.

We would like to suggest that a careful look at the economics of constructing and operating a garden suite would be helpful in determining whether or not these are being built to provide affordable housing or to increase the value of the property when it is resold.


Size:

We firmly believe that size and setbacks of any garden suites should be related to the size of the lot. We presently have 1.5m side yard setbacks and 7.5m rear lot setbacks for our smaller residential lots. These setbacks provide privacy and green space for play areas.

Living accommodation situated close to the rear property line might restrict how parents allow their children to use their backyards.


Height:

We have some concerns about the height of any proposed garden suites.

Bylaws are in place to regulate the height of auxiliary buildings built to the present 1.5 m setbacks.

These bylaws prevent excessive massing of such buildings and thus preserve sunlight, privacy and sightlines in residential backyards.

We would like to suggest that the allowed height of any garden suites be related to the size of the lot and the required setbacks.


Furthermore, we would like to suggest that the present procedures for measuring the height of dwellings be reviewed to ensure that the objectives of the bylaw are being achieved.


Density:

We believe that the present regulations regarding the number of dwellings on a lot should also apply to Garden Suites. For lots in RS 12 zones and smaller, the number of dwelling units should be maintained at two to prevent overbuilding and unacceptable densification.



The fact that we are presently seeing construction of 3 dwelling units on single RS6 lots is of concern to us.


Parking.

Many see this as a non-issue as they expect residents to take advantage of public transport, ride bikes and walk. While that may be a laudable goal for the future, it is not what is happening now. The proliferation of suites, both legal and unregistered, has led to residential streets in Gordon Head along with lawns and boulevards being used as parking lots.   This has resulted in streets that are unsafe for walking and biking. In addition, emergency and service vehicles have difficulty accessing residences.  There is a lack of parking for legitimate short-term visitors (especially in cul-de-sacs) and a potential decrease in property values, as it is hard for a home to maintain curb appeal when the property next door has cars parked on the lawn and the boulevard is chewed up with tire tracks.


Adequate parking must be a consideration. Based on our experience, we would suggest at least one off-street stall per bedroom should be the requirement.


Regulation:

The report from planning mentions the development of suitable regulations. We fully support reasonable regulations as an essential part of the bylaw governing Carriage Homes.

However, without effective enforcement, regulations are worthless. We would like to see Saanich review its bylaw enforcement policies and procedures. We would also suggest that increasing the number of enforcement officers would help to ensure that residents concerns about problem properties are dealt with effectively.

Putting new rules in place without a well considered enforcement strategy brings discredit on the municipality, and gives those with other motives an opportunity to take advantage of our good intentions


A nice home for our seniors, safe accommodation for students, an increase in affordable housing, all these are worthy objectives. However, our residents must be assured that the inclusion of garden suites in our neighbourhoods will be done in a manner that is appropriate for the area.