Port Moody town hall on house size and height, July 15, 2014

“Port Moody town hall meeting: Let’s discuss house size and height in Port Moody” — July 15, 2014

The town hall meeting had a very good turnout and people from several areas of the city spoke. Many issues and concerns were raised. The town hall can be viewed online here:
http://portmoodybc.swagit.com/play/07152014-1165

This topic will be discussed again at the regular council meeting this upcoming Tuesday, July 22, 2014 (the last before August summer break). It is item 9.9 in the agenda.

A key issue seems to be clarity (or lack of) in what the zoning bylaw (No. 1890) allows. Speakers had many questions and suggestions.

A surprising statement from planning and bylaws staff at the meeting was that basements or “unfinished space” don’t count in the floor space calculations (floor area ratio, or “FAR”). We thought that particular issue was resolved with a bylaw amendment in March 2012.

As a result of resident feedback, in March 2011 the Moody Centre Community Association hosted an information meeting and invited city planning staff to attend and answer questions from residents about how the city calculates house size and height. We were astonished to learn that basements – commonly the first floor of a home, not underground, and the same height as other storeys – were not included in these calculations.

The zoning bylaw stipulates for RS1 (single family, low density) that allowable lot coverage is 40%, and maximum floor space is one-half of the total lot size.

“FLOOR AREA RATIO” means the figure obtained when the gross floor area of all buildings on a lot is divided by the area of the lot.”

In Moody Centre, a typical lot size is about 8,700 square feet, so floor space allowed would be just under 4,500 square feet.

However, if first floors (basements) are not counted, the home could have an additional 2,000 plus square feet, for a total of close to 7,000 square feet. There are examples of this in Moody Centre.

Subsequently, and over the course of a year, the zoning bylaw was amended so that any floor (storey) high enough for living space – greater than 4 feet – would count in the calculations. The city held a public hearing on March 13, 2012, followed by a regular council meeting in which the text amendments to the zoning bylaw were approved.

The following are part of the amendments –

  • “STOREY” means the space between a floor level and the underside of the floor or roof system above it, excluding crawl spaces.”
  • “CRAWL SPACE” means a space between two floors where there is less than 1.2 metres (4.0 ft.) in height between the floor and the underside of the floor system above it.”

We don’t understand the statement at the town hall that basements and/or unfinished space isn’t counted, as we thought this issue was clarified with the zoning amendment.

Clear and transparent zoning text, and less “interpretation” is extremely important. People need to know what the rules are.

If the rules are problematic or have unintended consequences, discussion can and should occur.

Local news stories on the July 15th town hall are:
Monster homes a big concern, Tri-Cities Now
Port Moody residents pack town hall meeting on monster homes, The Tri-City News

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Related to this, it should be noted again that Moody Centre is faced with the spectre of massive densification if the draft OCP is approved. With regard to views, many residents could be looking at the backs of six-storey buildings on St. Johns Street, instead of mountains and/or water. Just one aspect of the potential consequences from the draft OCP.

 

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