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West Van council OKs coach houses to go to bylaws
Despite concern about effect on community character, coach houses were given the green light by West Vancouver council Monday evening.
Draft bylaws are now being written up, covering allowable size, height, style and location on lots after a unanimous vote in support of allowing the small detached dwellings (Coun. Michael Lewis was absent).
After these documents are finished, another public consultation is expected in November before council finalizes the amendments to West Van’s official community plan and zoning.
Based on feedback from the community (124 questionnaires were returned), staff is recommending coach houses be allowed anywhere in West Van where basement suites are currently permitted. This area covers most of the district with the exception of a few neighbourhoods such as Eagle Island.
Adding a coach house should not go above the permitted floor area, district staff also said in a report to council. This means coach houses — which could only be rented, not sold — would only be allowed for older homes because nearly every house built after the 1980s has maximized its size on the lot.
“It’s important to acknowledge we are a conservative community and these kinds of changes are difficult…,” said Coun. Trish Panz. “This is one way we can respond in a positive way to these so-called ‘monster houses’ in West Vancouver.”
Council hopes allowing coach houses would save older heritage homes from being torn down because homeowners would have the option of maximizing their floor area with a second dwelling.
Coun. Craig Cameron said construction of big houses has changed the character of the neighbourhood he lives in.
“Small houses that have some heritage value — many of them have character and are consistent with the neighbourhood — are being knocked down. Ninety percent of [the new houses] are cookie-cutter, large houses built by spec builders.”
Many of the recommendations outlined in the report “West Vancouver Coach House Examination” are based on community feedback.
From 124 surveys submitted to the district in person and online, 78 per cent of people think coach houses would be a good fit for West Van, while 15 per cent say no and the remainder are unsure.
Survey respondents were conflicted on whether to allow coach houses in all neighbourhoods. Sixty-two percent voted for free reign, while 27 per cent said to limit the backyard houses to certain areas of West Van.
On the matter of density, half (54 per cent) said coach houses should be allowed in addition to basement suites, while 49 per cent said only one form of secondary suite should be allowed per house.
Not every councillor, however, agreed with all aspects of staff’s report to council.
Coun. Bill Soprovich would like to see coach houses looked at on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis and acceptable lots “hand-picked,” instead of applying a blanket bylaw amendment to all of West Van.
The public’s opinion at the council meeting was mixed for and against coach houses.
“By adding another structure to a lot, you not only increase physical density, neighbours lose privacy,” said Heather Mersey, representative for Ambleside Dundarave Ratepayers Association. “[And there are] issues of sunlight, greenspace, trees, also parking and traffic.”
The City of North Vancouver already allows coach houses, with around 25 already constructed. The District of North Vancouver is looking into the idea, but on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis.