Maple Ridge council to review secondary suites

When people cry at the counter, it's usually because of secondary suites, says planning staff

Maple Ridge is wading into the treacherous waters of secondary suites, but it doesn’t want to get in over its head, just get its feet wet.

Council agree Monday to have staff review the rules for the suites as well as temporary residential units, such as mobile homes, and come back with suggestions on how they can be fine tuned.

It’s not a complete rewrite, but an update of  more than a decade-old set of policies, council heard.

Housing is an emotionally charged issue, said planning director Christine Carter, who was involved in the creation of the first set of bylaws, one of the first in Metro Vancouver, in 1999.

People on both sides of the issue – either dealing with a neighbour’s secondary suite  or using one as a mortgage helper – have strong opinions.

“The secondary suites bylaw is the most divisive bylaw I have ever been involved in.”

Whenever she saw someone crying at the district’s front counter, it usually involved secondary suites, she added.

Maple Ridge now allows suites only in homes on lots 6,000 sq. feet or more, while homes on smaller lots can have temporary residential units, suites that accommodate relatives or caregivers. A mobile home can also be a temporary unit on lots that are larger than an acre.

However, one local developer wants to put in secondary suites on smaller lots, with areas of 4,000 sq. feet or 2,300 sq. feet.

And most other cities have given up on the requirement for the homeowner to live in the home, she pointed out, because it’s difficult to enforce.

Couns. Bob Masse and Cheryl Ashlie, though, wanted to keep the latter requirement.

Parking, or the lack of it, is a major concern.

People convert garages to suites and park their cars on the streets, said Coun. Al Hogarth.

To allow suites on smaller lots is “asking for problems.”

Many illegal suites are now in the Albion area, known for its small lots of 2,300 sq. feet, and narrow streets.

Carter said later that council can decide, but Albion lots were not designed for secondary suites. Those would require a third parking spot. But residents park on the street instead of in the back yard pads.

“The neighbours down there are already arguing over parking. How do you provide three parking spaces on a lot that size?”

However, the bylaws department is getting reports of many illegal suites in the Albion area.

Coun. Corisa Bell wanted to know how to hold realtors accountable for informing buyers about suite restrictions.

But most realtors know the regulations and tell their clients, it’s just that buyers have short memories, added Hogarth, a realtor.

Staff will have a report in a few months recommending how to fine tune the bylaw.

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