Dean Park Estates in North Saanich (generally in the grey area) has a private covenant in place on properties, which prohibits certain uses, such as secondary suites. (Google Maps)

Residents association opposes suite rule change in North Saanich

Dean Park Estates Community Association wants there to be less confusion, not more

North Saanich’s plan to extend its secondary suites bylaw across the entire municipality — eliminating neighbourhoods that were excluded from those rules — will go to a public hearing on November 20.

Currently, the District’s rules allow homeowners to apply for and to build secondary suites. Only in a few places did the District have in place exemptions to those regulations, meaning homeowners within outlined areas could not ask the municipality for one. The largest exemption area in North Saanich are the 782 properties within the Dean Park Estates subdivision.

Those properties in Dean Park Estates also have a covenant — or Schedule of Restrictions — that prevents rental or ‘garden homes’ in yards, commercial enterprises operated out of the home (including vacation rentals or Airbnbs) and “unscreened large chattels” (RVs or boats) parked in driveways. That covenant falls to the Dean Park Estates Community Association (DPECA) to enforce — not the municipality.

The District has said it wants to look at dropping exclusionary zones to clear up confusion. With a single set of rules from the municipality, property owners will be able to apply for secondary suite construction, and be subject to all the typical health and safety oversight through local government.

North Saanich notes that private covenants, like the one at Dean Park Estates, potentially override local government regulations. Enforcing those provisions is, however, up to the body charged with overseeing them — in this case, the DPECA, and is not the responsibility of the District.

DPECA President Peter Jones, in an email reply the the News Review, says the Association is opposed to North Saanich’s proposed removal of the exclusion area. He said a blanket zoning allowing secondary suites will create more confusion, miscommunication and “potential legal action about the permitting of legal suites and the enforcement related to this matter in the Dean Park Estates area.”

“(DPECA) is disappointed with the October 23, 2017 District of North Saanich Council decision to remove the exemption …” Jones wrote. “Many of the people who purchased properties in Dean Park Estates chose to live here because of the assurance, both through municipal zoning and their the Schedule of Restrictions, that it would be a single family area.”

Without the exemption area, he noted, conflicts could arise between homeowners with the only recourse being legal action. Earlier this year, DPECA and the statutory building schemes was challenged by a resident in civil court. That matter was about an outbuilding, but the homeowner won the case, with the court noting generally that some aspects of the covenant were difficult to enforce.

As well, he said the District’s secondary suites bylaw that limits complaints to residents within 150 metres from a given zoning infraction, “there is a likelihood that many residents will lose their ability to complain to the District of North Saanich about zoning issues pertaining to illegal/non-permitted secondary suites.”

Jones stated in his email that DPECA “does not police our community nor initiate complaints; however, DPECA does act upon any complaints it receives form Dean Park Estates residents about possible violations of the … Schedule of Restrictions.”

Jones added “the Broadmead area in the District of Saanich (which has similar restrictive covenants as the Dean Park Estates’ Schedule of Restrictions) is exempt from the District of Saanich secondary suite program with Saanich council and staff recognizing that secondary suites in this neighbourhood are prohibited by covenant.”

The District refers to secondary suites as a potential relief for housing accessibility issues in the municipality. But Jones said he doesn’t feel that’s a “magic bullet that has any meaningful effect upon the current housing situation.”

Jones said DPECA is still willing to work with North Saanich to “ensure congruency.” He said he encourages residents to write to the District or attend the Nov. 20 hearing. The hearing starts at 7 p.m. at council chambers on Mills Road.

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