2014-07-19: Media stories on Port Moody town hall on house size and height

Monster homes a big concern
Issue draws a near-capacity crowd to a meeting at Port Moody city hall
Jeremy Deutsch / Tri-Cities Now
July 18, 2014
http://www.thenownews.com/news/monster-homes-a-big-concern-1.1211412

It was a monster crowd at Port Moody City Hall to discuss a growing concern about the proliferation of monster homes in the community.

A near-capacity crowd packed the Inlet theatre Tuesday night, while several dozen residents, most living in the Ioco Road area, stepped up to tell council their story of a monster home coming into their neighbourhood and possible solutions to the issue.

Dale Uher said he moved to the city 10 years ago to enjoy the natural setting of the community, but noted a couple of homes on April Road in front of him sold to a developer with a reputation for building super-sized homes.

“These types of houses are sticking out like a sore thumb and they’re not esthetically pleasing,” he said, noting the homes will change the character of the neighbourhood forever.

He asked council to consider changing the building bylaws and maximum heights allowed for new homes.

Resident Geno Sakhrani said he lives right beside a monster home, suggesting his neighbours lost their view, while construction ruined the grade of his own property.

He suggested part of the problem is developers are difficult to deal with, calling them “bullies.”

Sakhrani said he believes builders are not following the rules and wants to see developers held in check.

He wasn’t alone – a number of people questioned how some homes were being built under the current bylaws.

Currently, a home can’t exceed three storeys or 35 feet above grade, while the building can’t exceed 50 per cent of the size of the lot.

However, the city does not calculate unfinished basement into the square footage.

The issue is complicated because of the different slopes and grades on properties.

Residents in Moody Centre have also complained about monster homes in their neighbourhood, most notably a house under construction on Hope Street dubbed the “Horror on Hope”.

Last month, council promised to look at the issue of monster homes in the city.

Ann Kitching lives on April Road and noted neighbours have lost their view of the water and value in their homes because of the larger houses.

“I think it’s a crying shame,” she said, suggesting many of the properties in question become speculation homes.

Kitching called on the city to impose a moratorium on large homes until the issue can be sorted out.

Other residents like Reiner Specht also called on the city to bring in a moratorium on monster houses and for council to consult with residents.

“It’s appalling to see these monster homes,” he said.

Resident Ken Tough suggested the large homes go against the sustainability objectives of the city, while Sandy Liles argued the homes are being built with complete disregard for the community, adding council can’t wait a year to act.

“This needs to happen right away,” Liles said.

At the meeting a few residents living in Glenayre, where rancher-style homes are common, expressed their own worries that homes currently being sold will be turned into monster homes.

Following the meeting, Coun. Rosemary Small said she had heard a number of good suggestions for the city to consider. Most notably, she liked the idea of limiting house sizes and having builders come before council to ask for a variance if they want something bigger.

She said that would give the public a chance to provide feedback on each home.

Mayor Mike Clay said the city will probably have to address the basement square footage and grade calculations, along with height limits. While he does believe developers are trying to find creative ways to get around the bylaws, he’s not convinced people are actually getting away with fudging their numbers.

“I find it impossible to believe that someone could fudge something and get it past all of our inspectors, especially on an issue we know is top of mind with everyone,” Clay said.

The mayor said city staff could possibly bring back some solutions as early as next week’s council meeting, or take the month of August during council’s summer break and have something ready for September.

****************

Port Moody residents pack town hall meeting on monster homes
by Sarah Payne – The Tri-City News
posted Jul 17, 2014
http://www.tricitynews.com/news/267570931.html

As petite bungalows come down along Port Moody’s Ioco Road corridor and much larger homes go up, Pleasantside residents are finding that one of the most feared sightings in their neighbourhood isn’t the local wildlife, it’s a “For Sale” sign.

People who have treasured their views of Burrard Inlet for decades are now looking at tall, expansive walls. Sunny gardens home to flowers and vegetable patches are now shrouded in shade.

One after the other, Pleasantside residents and, to a lesser extent, those from Glenayre as well, spoke at a town hall meeting Tuesday evening at PoMo city hall, pleading with council and staff to change the building bylaws — as quickly as possible — to prevent any more “monster” homes from going up.

“It’s a very emotional issue,” said Tara McIntosh, a Jacobs Road resident who helped initiate the “Good Neighbour Bylaw” group.

Fighting back tears, she described the tremendous stress families are going through as they watch homes built in front of theirs, most often without any consultation with or regard for the neighbours around them.

“Even if what you have is just a little house with a nice garden, to me it’s a big ‘screw you’ when people come and build a big, fat house with a big wall in front of your main window.”

Ann Kitching, a longtime April Road resident, said her neighbours are now looking at an enormous, three-storey box.

“They lost their beautiful view of the water, they lost the trees — everything is gone. It’s a crying shame,” Kitching said.

The trouble is, it’s all completely legal, according to staff.

Jim Weber, PoMo’s manager of bylaws, outlined the regulations that dictate how large a house can be in relation to its lot size, how height is measured depending on the roof style and — what appears to be the main issue — how the grade of the lot is measured.

“It’s one of the more difficult things for us to calculate,” Weber said. “The previous bylaw had some challenges in that people were tending to manipulate the grade a bit” to get the desired height of their homes.

Now, grade is calculated by taking an average of readings taken from where the house will be situated on the lot, with the ground being what it had been over the past two years.

But there is still room for interpretation, said Mayor Mike Clay.

“It’s not breaking the law but it’s being very creative in how they take advantage of the weaknesses in the bylaws,” Clay said.

With Pleasantside’s sloped lots, the resulting homes can end up looking extremely high, he added, while still conforming to the city’s bylaws.

That could soon change.

Tuesday’s meeting brought forward a number of suggestions for limiting the scale of new homes in well-established neighbourhoods, Clay said, including a cap on the height variance compared to neighbouring homes, tighter rules on the location and size of retaining walls, and including unfinished basements in total square footage.

Clay also suggested requiring builders go before a review panel to confirm whether nearby residents will be affected by a new house — a “forced good neighbour” policy, he joked.

McIntosh said the town hall meeting was an important opportunity “to put a human face on what these monster homes are doing to people” and that, far from being against redevelopment, residents just want to see more thoughtfulness in the way it’s handled.

Clay said the issue will be raised at next week’s council meeting, the last before the summer break, with the aim of directing staff to bring back suggested bylaw amendments in September.

“We’re not stalling,” Clay said. “We’re going to keep moving ahead aggressively.”

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