Changes to Bruce County’s Official Plan would create additional housing opportunities on existing properties

·3 min read

BRUCE COUNTY – A team of graduate students from the University of Guelph did a presentation April 15 to the county’s planning and development committee on additional dwelling unit (ADU) research.

The group had been asked to work with the county on Plan the Bruce: Homes project. The students were Michael Balch, Brittany Manley, Britt Gregg-Wallace and Brandon Raco.

The staff report presented to council stated the project has identified a number of directions for consideration that would increase the number of homes available in the county. One direction relates to policies that permit additional residential units in single-detached, semi-detached and rowhouse dwellings, and in an ancillary building to these types of dwellings. The students were asked to research policy directions to reduce barriers to additional residential units in Bruce County.

The presentation highlights the students’ findings. Their next step will be to complete a final report that will support initiation of the secondary units Official Plan Amendment.

The students looked at best practices from across the province. Among the municipalities reviewed were Grey County, Huron County, Wellington County, Brant County, City of Toronto, City of Guelph and District of Muskoka.

ADUs – additional dwelling units – are “self-contained dwelling units with a private kitchen, bathroom and sleeping areas.” They can be within the primary building or ancillary, and may provide income to homeowners and attainable housing for renters.

Under Bill 108 More Homes, More Choice Act, municipalities are required to amend Official Plans to allow a variety of housing types through ADUs. The number of units allowed on an appropriate lot has been increased from two to three.

Key considerations included servicing, future severances, agricultural areas and waterfront areas.

Agricultural and recreational designations may limit the permitted ADUs to one, either in the same building or an ancillary building.

Zoning bylaw recommendations include stipulations the lot is large enough for a shared private septic system, severances not be permitted, and one off-street parking space be provided.

The students concluded their presentation by saying the hope their research and recommendations result in “more diverse and available housing.”

In response to a question about waterfront areas from County Coun. Milt McIver, mayor of Northern Bruce Peninsula, Manley said the recommendation is to “keep it (the ADU) within the primary dwelling.” Comments from council indicated this would help make more housing available, without causing additional problems. McIver said, “Attainable (affordable) housing is one thing, but just another rental unit is another.”

County Coun. Luke Charbonneau, mayor of Saugeen Shores, made note of the new townhouse development in Kincardine with units each having a built-in garden suite.

There was some discussion about garden suites, with the general consensus being they fall under the definition of ADUs, although they are meant to be temporary.

County Coun. Chris Peabody, mayor of Brockton, asked if there was any prediction on “how much uptake” there’d be.

The response was developers had been consulted and it’s expected many people will take advantage of the amended rules about ADUs.

A report further along in the agenda recommended staff be authorized to initiate an amendment to the county’s Official Plan to update policies on ADUs, and schedule a public meeting.

Recommended policy changes include redefining secondary suites as additional residential units to align with the Planning Act, and broadening permission for ADUs and garden suites to any designation where residential uses are permitted as a primary use.

In the agricultural designation, one additional unit would be permitted, either in the primary dwelling or an ancillary building, replacing the current policy that allows only a secondary farm residence.

In the rural recreation area designation, an additional residential unit would be permitted only within a building containing a primary residence.

The combined total of residential unit, additional residential units and a garden suite shall not exceed three units on a lot.

In addition, recommendations include addressing servicing, particularly for privately serviced lots, and maintain the general policy of not permitting an additional residential unit on a lot that is deficient in width or size.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times