Garage suite debate will be back for another round at council

The controversial topic of garage suites will be on Sylvan Lake council’s agenda again in the near future after a second attempt

The controversial topic of garage suites will be on Sylvan Lake council’s agenda again in the near future after a second attempt to have them banned was deferred.

It will be back on the agenda when all councillors are present. At least one indicated he won’t be at Monday night’s meeting.

Councillor Sean McIntyre made a motion to give first reading to a bylaw that would ‘sever’ references to garage suites from the Land Use Bylaw, effectively meaning they wouldn’t be allowed in town, at the May 27 meeting.

However Councillor Rick Grimson raised a point of order stating that the same motion had already been defeated at the previous council meeting. “It can’t come up for six months,” he said.

McIntyre said he felt circumstances had changes based on a report from Tim Schmidt, director of planning and development. However he agreed to a proposal by Councillor Ken MacVicar to postpone discussion “to make sure we do know what our legislative parameters are. In two weeks’ time we can make sure we have a motion that if relevant would pass.”

Schmidt’s report requested direction from council on how to proceed. He indicated that in 2007-08 following completion of the Affordable Housing Study it was found there was a need for two or three bedroom units but for a family with income of $35,000 rents were out of reach. “There was a need for secondary suites so we looked at a variety of types.”

Schmidt also noted changes to the Alberta Building Code in 2006 that required garage suites to have windows and separate doors. A broad regulation indicates there needs to be an exterior staircase, he indicated.

The report made a number of suggestions, such as moving the approval process to the Municipal Planning Commission instead of leaving it with the development officer; doing more advertising — both to the construction industry and homeowners — about the fact garage suites may be built in certain areas; and increasing the distance used for notifying neighbours of proposed garage suites (currently it’s 50 metres, Schmidt suggested 75 metres). Another option was to create an ‘overlay district’ which would indicate exactly which lots in new subdivisions could accommodate garage suites.

McIntyre said even with proposed changes there was no change in the rules that allow garage suites. He called for an immediate suspension of garage suite approvals.

Mayor Susan Samson said she was comfortable with the changes proposed. “That would afford us time without severing, My wish is not to sever.”

Going around the table Samson got mixed reaction from councillors.

Councillor Laverne Asselstine said his opinion hadn’t changed. “The Land Use Bylaw, in my mind is a flawed document. I think it needs to be rewritten. We can make these changes but it doesn’t change a whole lot.” He indicated he was still in favour of ‘severing’ the garage suites from the bylaw.

Grimson was in favour of changes but not of ‘severing’. MacVicar was of the same mind.

Councillor Dale Plante wanted the garage suites ‘severed’.

Councillor Graham Parsons indicated he had been in favour of ‘severing’ but had changed his mind and would accept the changes proposed.