More housing options are now available in North Cowichan for those living outside urban areas.
Council decided at its meeting on Dec. 4 to allow detached dwellings, including second residences and suites, outside the urban containment boundary, but with restrictions.
The current official community plan, which is under review, discourages increasing density in rural areas except in certain circumstances.
But Rob Conway, North Cowichan’s planning manager, told council that the municipality has been receiving an increasing number of requests, approximately two per week, to build detached secondary dwellings in areas zoned rural, with many looking to house adult children or aging family members.
A report by development planner Larissa Barry-Thibodeau states that while North Cowichan’s OCP provides some leeway for rural housing development, it directs the majority of housing development toward designated growth centres.
She said the OCP has limited and unclear language with respect to permitting secondary detached dwellings and suites on rural properties.
Barry-Thibodeau said the OCP is currently under review and the issue will be discussed and considered during that process; but with the increased interest in the housing option in rural areas right now, council may want to establish criteria to deal with them in the interim.
She recommended that council direct staff to review all future site-specific applications for secondary dwellings outside the urban containment boundary in the context of the existing OCP policies, and that the size of the proposed dwelling be restricted by covenant to approximately 1,000 sq. ft.
As well, Barry-Thibodeau recommended that any subdivision of the dwellings be restricted by covenant; the size of the land parcel be a minimum of 2.5 acres where no municipal sewer or water exist; one acre where no municipal sewer exists and 0.5 acres where municipal water and sewer exist.
In addition, the siting of second dwellings on agricultural lands be restricted by covenant to preserve the land for agricultural purposes.
The recommendations were passed by council, but not before some discussion.
Coun. Christopher Justice asked how many properties in North Cowichan outside the UCB would fit the criteria.
Conway said that the exact number is not known at this time, but he believes a large number would be eligible.
“Requests will still be considered on a case-by-case basis and council will have the opportunity to consider site-specific issues [of each application],” he said.
“A bigger discussion on this issue will be had when we look at it as part of the overall OCP review.”
Justice pointed out that the OCP discourages growth in areas outside the UCB, and he has concerns that this new initiative will lead to more growth in those areas.
Conway acknowledged that it might facilitate more growth in some rural areas.
“But, in terms of the overall number of applications we have been receiving, we’re not looking at wholesale development,” he said.
“This is just an interim measure until the OCP review is over, expected within the next year and a half.”