Oak Bay approved the rezoning application for the residential house at 2512 Wootton Cres. (which is built as a duplex). The owners will now advance with a building permit to update the duplex to a two-storey building, stratify it and sell one while retiring in the other to age in place. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Oak Bay duplex approved by council

Oak Bay staff, council continue efforts to iron out duplex legalization

Oak Bay council voted in favour of rezoning what will be the second legal conforming duplex in the 113-year-old city on Monday.

It was actually a re-vote for the rezoning application at 2506/2512 Wootton Cres. that council voted against last week. The property is now to be zoned RD1, which is the only two-family residential use in the Oak Bay zoning bylaws.

Mayor Kevin Murdoch employed his ability to bring the agenda item back to council since one of the councillors was away the week previous. The previous votes remained the same, while Coun. Hazel Braithwaite joined Murdoch and Couns. Tara Ney and Andrew Appleton to endorse the application in a 4-3 vote. Couns. Esther Paterson, Cairine Green and Eric Zhelka voted against.

Glenn Wakefield was at municipal hall on Tuesday morning to begin the building permit application.

“The mayor guided it quite well, he showed bold leadership,” said Wakefield, owner-applicant of the Wootton house. “It’s a hurdle. We rallied a group of people fighting on our behalf. In the end council approved it, and Oak Bay’s planning department approved it.”

READ MORE: Homeowners caught up in Oak Bay’s duplex complexities

The Wakefields have lived in one side of their duplex for 30 years. They bought it a few years after Oak Bay council decided to remove the duplex zoning that previously existed. There is now an estimated 70 to 80 duplexes in Oak Bay that are legal nonconforming. There are now two legal duplexes, a purpose-built duplex on Estevan Avenue and now the Wootton duplex.

The Wakefields were up front about their plan from the start, which is to upgrade the duplex on both sides to become a two-storey house. They plan to stratify them and sell the other half, to put equity in the bank so they can continue to live in their side of the building as they retire and age in place as Oak Bay residents, Wakefield said.

On the cusp of getting the building permit, the Wakefields main concern now is that they are investing hundreds of thousands to redevelop the duplex but will also have to rely on council to once again vote in favour when the strata application comes before them. In the meantime, Oak Bay staff are reviewing how the strata application will work.

“In theory, Oak Bay’s tax base for the house doubles from [approximately] $5,000 to $10,000,” Wakefield said.

Deliberation for the application took some time as there were concerns from Coun. Zhelka regarding the protection of rental suites in other duplex houses.

He noted that Nanaimo actually restricts stratifying duplexes in certain neighbourhoods with the purpose of preserving rental stock. As a result, Zhelka said he will draft a motion for staff to review what other cities do in a similar situation, where duplex owners seek to stratify and sell off one or both of the houses.

On the other hand, as Wakefield noted, the duplex actually had three living units as one side has a secondary suite underneath it. However, they have conceded that this suite will not remain as part of the application negotiations, Wakefield said.

Regardless, it will create a less expensive offering for a single-family dwelling, said Coun. Ney, recognizing there’s no such thing as affordable housing in Oak Bay.

“It’s somewhat smaller, somewhat less expensive, whatever that means in Oak Bay,” Ney said.

reporter@oakbaynews.com


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