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Duplexes add layer to suite discussion

Municipal hall won't shut down suites in more than 100 duplexes, but has stopped short of legalizing them

Delta will not try to shut down the many illegal secondary suites in duplexes for the time being.

Two years ago, Delta council gave final approval for a new bylaw that formally permitted secondary suites in single-family residences, as long as they meet zoning and building code standards.

However, suites were not permitted in duplexes, which would essentially become fourplexes if each side contained a secondary living unit.

A staff note to council on a recent letter from a concerned resident stated there are in excess of 100 duplex units containing a secondary suite.

The letter from the resident noted that for many years a duplex across the street from his home on Linden Drive in Ladner had been single-family on both sides without problems, but a new absentee landlord has turned it into a revenue property by adding extra suites.

Asking how Delta will go about collecting fees for the use of extra municipal services, the concerned homeowner noted the lack of off-street parking has become a headache for adjacent property owners.

Bylaw staff recently discussed the issue with council at a workshop, informing councillors a report will be coming back for their consideration before action is determined.

Deputy community planning director Marcy Sangret, noting duplexes are not considered single-family dwellings, told the Optimist several have been discovered since the secondary suite bylaw went into effect, while the owners of others have come to the bylaw department asking to legalize their suites, only to be told they're not currently allowed under the zoning.

"Under the B.C. Building Code, there are provisions for secondary suites that are in single-family dwellings, but duplexes are treated separately. From a building code perspective, a duplex that had one or more suites would be classified as multi-family, which is a different provision," Sangret explained.

"We would be concerned about things like adequacy of parking, density, because some of our area plans have densities set out in unitsper-acre," she said.

Bylaw staff are not moving to shut down the duplex suites for now, until council has an opportunity to review the upcoming report, which will identify the issues Delta faces should the suites be incorporated into the zoning.

"We'd have to see what the implications would be for homeowners and we would have to consult with the community on that, because even with suites in single-family homes there are concerns about parking and things like that," Sangret added.

"I don't know if there's an appetite for suites in duplexes, but it would be something that would be presented to council."

Allowing secondary suites in duplexes could be a touchy issue, based on council's recent discussion of a duplex application on Crescent Drive that didn't include a secondary suite.

Although there would be no change to the current living arrangements, there was considerable discussion among councillors about the parking situation and whether the occupants should be made to provide additional parking stalls on their property.

According to Delta, there are an estimated 5,300 to 7,000 secondary suites of all types in the municipality, many of which do not meet current zoning or building code standards.

To encourage property owners to legalize their suites, Delta's program will waive the first two building inspections (first inspection and re-inspection of an existing secondary suite) until Jan. 31, 2013. This would represent a savings of approximately $250 for property owners.

Delta has a bylaw enforcement program that has become a major line item in the annual operating budget.

The inspectors look to ensure the rules are being followed, including a maximum of one suite in a single-family home and one additional on-site (driveway) parking spot.

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