Home size is about zoning not regulating design

This zoning issue and community concern is not, and has never been about design

Thank you for your coverage of the building size limits in Oak Bay (Oak Bay News, Dec. 7), however your headline, Regulating beauty, taste in development, needs correcting and the article missed some important points.

This zoning issue and community concern is not, and has never been about design – there are many present examples in Oak Bay of modern design or design in poor taste that has not aroused anywhere near this level of community distress and controversy regarding inappropriate, overbuilt lots.

In addition to architects and developers, there were Oak Bay residents at the council committee meeting who also expressed their views on this important issue. It was pointed out to council that somehow in these development discussions and decisions, the interests of the community and neighboring homeowners seem to get overlooked – when in fact they are the most impacted. It was explained that council rarely meets a variance it doesn’t pass – therefore any zoning control or flexibility is lost. The main purpose for the 2007 zoning change, under-height basements, was resolved some years ago when the B.C. building code was changed. It is clear from all the discussion, the staff reports, the reported volume of complaints and the community plan’s objectives, that a zoning correction is necessary.

What is not clear is why council continues to consider this a complex issue. Much of the concern is about how the 2007 zoning bylaw changes increased the allowable floor space. These changes also permitted outbuildings, garages etc. to be excluded from the primary building footprint. It should be obvious then that if you add considerably to what can be built – of course the house can be much larger.

The staff report to council is clear. It points out that in the past, the primary focus of the zoning bylaw was the protection of neighborhood streetscapes, the present bylaw does not. The report explains the previous zoning bylaw was used successfully for 20 years prior to the 2007 change in the fixed floor area requirements. The previous bylaw contained a ratio to land formula that is the fairest and most equitable that was the same for all single-family properties. The staff report also provides options for council, to count accessory buildings, atriums etc. in the calculation of floor space and, to return to the pre-2007 zoning bylaw’s 25 per cent lot coverage limit.

The essential point in all this however is that if you want a big house you should buy a big lot.

Anthony Mears

Oak Bay