Redundant or outdated aspects of Victoria’s garden suite program have caused the city to bring forward updates to its design guidelines, as it will also aim to increase application fees to better reflect associated costs.
The city saw a drastic uptick in garden suite applications after amending its garden suite policy in 2017 to delegate certain approvals to staff.
Staff say the program is working well, but Victoria’s garden suite design guidelines need to be revised to remove redundant language, address common design challenges and bring the document into alignment with other city policies, bylaws and initiatives.
Current design issues surround window placements and privacy impacts, roof shapes and building entry. Staff proposes that windows look onto the garden suite’s own property and that they be located at specific distances from the property line to address privacy concerns. The city also wants roof forms that are sympathetic to neighbours to avoid shadow and privacy impacts.
Recommended updates to the overall guidelines include: highlighting the city’s tree protection bylaw, enhancing suite accessibility and strategically locating mechanical equipment such as heat pumps. Sustainable features such as green roofs, permeable paving, bike parking spots, rainwater collection and energy-efficient aspects are also encouraged in the updated framework.
The city is also looking to amend its garden suite fees for property owners.
The current fee of $1,000 is less than the costs associated with staff time needed during the approvals process. It was recommended that the base application fee be raised to $3,000. That would increase to $3,500 if the application is inconsistent with the design guidelines and has to be referred to council.
At the April 21 committee meeting, Victoria councillors passed an amendment to make the proposed application fee a flat rate of $2,000. Applicants also would still have to pay $250 per variance in their proposal.
Staff will now be consulting with the public and drafting revisions to the garden suite guidelines. A public hearing will ultimately be required before any guideline updates are adopted.
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