Pitt Meadows thinks twice about duplexes

City has 960 lots that could have two-unit housing

All of the coloured lots have duplex potential under the current regulations, but Pitt Meadows city council is making changes that will allow only the green lots to have this type of housing, pending an upcoming review of the Official Community Plan.

Change the city’s name to Duplex Meadows.

When Pitt Meadows councillors saw maps showing the number of city lots that could be developed for duplexes, some were shocked.

The maps “graphically tell a tale,” said Coun. Bill Dingwall, who was joined by his fellow councillors in his concern that the number of duplexes could change the character of the city.

“I wasn’t aware of the scope of duplexes – 960 as we currently speak,” said Dingwall.

That’s the number of lots currently available for the multi-home developments under the city’s current infill housing regulations.

Council decided on Tuesday it should at least temporarily limit the number of duplexes to corner and double-facing lots. This would cut the number down to 173 lots. Council gave a bylaw with this new limit first and second reading, and it will soon go to third reading and public hearing.

Other property owners who could own potential duplexes would wait until the city completes its Official Community Plan review. That process will begin in the new year, and will take an estimated 12-18 months.

Dingwall noted the 960 properties are “in the old heart of Pitt Meadows,” and believes seeing that many duplexes would have an impact.

“It will change the look, the feel, the face …” he said, adding that he has parking and traffic concerns.

“You’re going to lose all of your larger lots forever.”

Coun. Janis Elkerton and Mayor John Becker agreed, saying the city should have variety in its housing stock.

Elkerton argued council should move quickly to limit duplex developments, rather than wait until the OCP review is complete. Otherwise, there could be a rush by property owners to take advantage of the development opportunity before the regulations change.

She likened it to council talking about a tree cutting bylaw, and numerous trees around the city being taken down before it came into effect.

“Current development rules aren’t fitting the values of the community right now,” said Becker.

Staff presented a number of options, based on lot types, zoning and sizes, that could see the number of duplex-eligible lots drop from 370 or lower.

Corner lot duplexes still look like family homes, and fit in well into neighbourhoods, staff observed.

Coun. Mike Stark said the city does need infill housing and densification, and said 173 lots is at the low end. He echoed the staff report, which cautioned against severely limiting duplex construction.

“Currently, housing options are significantly restricted in the region and the city,” said the report. “Removing opportunities for housing options will have long-term impacts. Through the upcoming OCP review process, the community will be engaged in discussion about growth, values, housing affordability and options etc. This is an important conversation that the community should be involved in.”

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