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Administration’s Secondary Suite Recommendations for March 12 Public Hearing
A few weeks ago, we provided you with some background information to clarify the proposed changes to secondary suites and what they mean for community associations. The report that will be presented to Council on March 12 has been released. We wanted to share it with you and provide a quick summary. There will also be an opportunity to provide input at the hearing on March 12th, and more details can be found at the bottom of this letter.
The Changes at a Glance
On March 12th, Council will be looking at several separate pieces of work about secondary suites. They are NOW as follows:
1. Land Use Bylaw (LUB) amendments that add Secondary Suite and Backyard Suite as discretionary uses in the R-1, R-C1 and R-C1L districts.
2. Develop a policy to guide Administration’s discretion when reviewing Development Permits for suites.
3. Reinstate application fees for suites.
4. Changes to the Suite Registry Program requiring mandatory registration.
5. Develop implementation plans for an illegal suite amnesty, registry fees, rebate program, application guidebook, and guidelines on advertising and engagement.
What is a Secondary Suite?
In the context of this project, a secondary suite can be either a basement suites or a laneway suite. A basement suite is a separate dwelling inside a single detached house with separate cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities. A laneway suite is a self-contained living space on the same property as a single-detached house, and is often accessed from the back alley or laneway.
What does this mean for communities?
In the past, secondary suite applicants applied for a land use amendment if their parcel was within one of the districts above. This was sent to council for public hearing, and there was an opportunity for the public to provide input. If council approved the land use amendment, a development permit was issued without opportunity for consultation.
With the proposed changes, applicants will apply for a discretionary development permit in R-1, R-C1, and R-C1L districts. As a result, community associations will be circulated the development permits and be able to provide comments. Development permits for a suite in these districts will also be notice posted. This means that a sign is placed on the property advising the neighbouring residents of the development permit application and how to make comments on the application. Decisions on development permit applications may be appealed.
The proposed changes would mean property owners would have the ability to develop a suite without City Council approval, but would still work with Planning and Development staff at the City of Calgary to obtain development and building permits.
At the beginning of 2014, Administration removed the Land Use Amendment and Development Permit fees associated with suites. Administration is recommending that fees be brought back, and more information is available below.
NEW: REPORT SUMMARY
Below is a quick summary of some of the key changes that are being proposed by Administration. Please be sure to read the attached report to Council for further information.
Land Use Bylaw Amendments
The proposed Bylaw amendments add Secondary Suite and Backyard Suite as discretionary uses in the R-1, R-C1, and R-C1L districts. Currently suites are allowed either as permitted or discretionary uses in every residential district except R-1, R-C1 and R-C1L.
Policy to Guide Discretionary Suite Applications
The proposed policy will guide planners that review discretionary secondary suite applications. Guidance is provided on items such as parking, amenity space, and privacy for Backyard Suites. Attachment 1 in the PDF adds more detail to the proposed policy.
Mandatory Suite Registry and Development of a Suite Registry Bylaw
A proposed Suite Registry Bylaw (Attachment 4) has been made to turn the voluntary Registry into a mandatory Registry. The Registry includes a database of suites that have been approved. A suite will be added once it has obtained the required permits and passed inspection. Any suite that is made available to the public to rent that is not on the Registry is subject to a fine. The Registry will make it easier to identify and report potentially unsafe suites being offered for rent. Issues related to land use, safety, community standards, or landlord-tenant disputes would be dealt with under other existing Bylaws.
If these changes are approved, there may still be a rare occasion where someone applies for a land use amendment requiring Council approval. An owner would redesignate their property to a district where Secondary Suites are a permitted use, meaning a Development Permit would not be required. The Land Use Amendment fees would be brought back at a similar rate to other redesignation applications, amounting to $5,050.
Development permit fees would also be brought back to cost $471. Similar permits cost approximately $570. Fees for Building Permits will also be collected, including inspections to verify that the suite complies with safety standards. Refer to attachment 6 for the fee schedule.
Administration was directed to develop recommendations for the items listed below.
Administration is recommending a two-year grace period to encourage owners of existing illegal suites to apply for the required permits to bring their suites up to minimum safety standards. Attachment 7 has more details. During this period, Development Permit fees would be waived, and suite owners would not be prosecuted for not being registered. This is to encourage the creation of as many safe and legal suites as possible. A Building Permit and its fee will still be required in all cases.
Council asked for a Registry fee to be introduced. The Registry fee also be waived during the amnesty period, and owners already on the voluntary Registry would be exempted from paying the fee after the grace period. After the grace period, future suites would be subject to the fees for a Development Permit, Building Permit, Electrical Permit, Plumbing and Gas Permits, and the Registry.
The amnesty strategy (Attachment 8) explains the process that Administration will take to:
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