Whitehorse city council has voted against a zoning amendment that would have permitted a living suite to be built inside a home on 14th Avenue.
In a 6-1 vote at council’s Sept. 14 meeting, members defeated the bylaw for the rezoning of 39 14th Ave. at second reading. Coun. Steve Roddick was the only council member to vote in favour of the change.
With the home zoned Restricted Residential (RR), a living suite isn’t permitted, prompting the owners to request the change for their home as they planned to build a suite for an aging family member.
A public hearing held in August heard arguments both for and against the change.
A submission signed by four neighbours in opposition argued it would impact the character of the neighbourhood, and there would be insufficient parking available, among other concerns about it.
Meanwhile, those who expressed support (including the home owner and another neighbour) pointed to parking available on the property and highlighted city efforts to encourage denser housing throughout Whitehorse with the neighbour also stating she has no concerns about traffic, parking or negative impacts on the area. It was also suggested the change will support aging-in-place in the shorter term and housing affordability in the long term.
It was also noted that while the home is one of four infill properties that was added in 2011 to that section of 14th Avenue with the RR zoning, across the street and nearby are a number of other homes zoned as Residential Single which allow for suites and other denser housing types.
Ahead of the Sept. 14 vote though a number of council members highlighted concern over the spot zoning.
Coun. Samson Hartland said residents who purchased RR zoned homes likely did so for the lifestyle with a number of restrictions put in place on the zone that hold the properties to a higher development standard. Along with suites not being permitted in the zone, RR properties are required to have hard surfaced driveways, must be a minimum of 700 square meters and meet other requirements.
Hartland said if there’s a serious desire to change RR zoning to allow for suites it should be revisited as part of an overall bylaw rewrite that would encompass all RR properties.
Coun. Laura Cabott agreed, highlighting the history of the area, noting that when the infill properties were added in 2011 the zone was likely chosen due to public concerns in the interest of maintaining a lower density in the area.
While ultimately future developments in the city may move away from this type of zoning, going ahead with a zoning change for this is also not the right move, she said.
She said she would vote against the zoning change, but hopes there is a larger discussion on the overall change as the next Official Community Plan and zoning bylaw are developed.
Coun. Jan Stick also said she would like to see a larger discussion on the zone as part of the OCP review with Mayor Dan Curtis stating that though the decision on the proposed rezoning has not been an easy one, he would not support it going forward.
Coun. Dan Boyd, meanwhile, who attended the meeting by conference call pointed out it was only in recent years the property and the three other RR zones in the same area was developed and sold with its current zoning in place.
Those who purchased those homes understood what the zoning was. To quickly change that would undermine the zoning process, he said.
“I’m not comfortable with changing zoning like this,” Boyd said.
Before raising his hand as the lone vote in favour of the change, Roddick highlighted a previous survey showing some support through the city for allowing suites in RR-zoned homes and described the change as “a matter of evolution of the city.”
He pointed out that RR properties are larger and, therefore, can accommodate such changes.
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