Many people concerned about the sudden proliferation of secondary suite applications, packed council chambers June 9 to hear former councillor Richard Backs question a proposal to return approval of secondary suites to town staff.
A bylaw to amend the Land Use Bylaw will be the subject of a public hearing at Monday’s (June 23) council meeting. Then council may consider second and third read. However Backs said he’d be unavailable to address the item at that time.
So he appeared as a delegation at the June 9 meeting.
Speaking as a private citizen “on behalf of all homeowners in Sylvan Lake”, he said the bylaw proposes to correct a “perceived error” of council’s own making, an “oversight” that moved authority to approve secondary suites from development officers to Municipal Planning Commission (MPC).
“We see this accident as an actual opportunity — an opportunity for council to more consistently obtain citizens’ input on this and other development items before they become full blown political issues,” he said.
The previous week’s MPC agenda “documented expressions of anger and frustration from over 50 homeowners. Many of those people truly believed that simply putting their thoughts in writing would be enough for the current council to put a stop to secondary suite development in their neighbourhood,” Backs said.
“I ask you to consider carefully the faith these many people have put in this current council.”
But he added, to the best of his knowledge, not one of those homeowners received a call from council or MPC members seeking to understand their concerns or clarify the process.
Quoting from a staff report on the amending bylaw, he noted it said granting the development officer authority to approve secondary suite applications will help streamline applications.
He then questioned the use of the phrase ‘prescribed uses’ in applications for secondary suites before MPC. They’re actually described as ‘discretionary uses’ within most residential districts.
“I know, and you know as well, secondary suites were never intended to be a prescribed use within the Land Use Bylaw,” Backs stated.
He asked council to defer second reading of the bylaw following Monday’s public hearing and solicit more widespread input from citizens. He’d also like all applications for garage suites and secondary suites to continue to be reviewed by MPC “to give due consideration to the ongoing impact of previous development within the existing neighbourhood”.
His third point was that an amendment should be made to the Land Use Bylaw which allows for management of secondary suite development. He referred to a quick reaction which council took when the issue of garage suites arose earlier.