2014-08-01: Media reports on “monster home” council meeting of July 29, 2014

Port Moody zeros in on zoning changes to curb monster homes
by Staff Writer – The Tri-City News
posted Jul 31, 2014 at 2:00 PM

The building of mega homes in Port Moody could be coming to a quick end after an epic meeting Tuesday in which council members debated a slew of resolutions and amendments to the zoning bylaw.

Eventually, the special committee of the whole meeting resulted in a clear direction to staff:

  • create area-specific zones for Ioco, Moody Centre and Glenayre;
  • analyze 10 potential changes to the RS1 zone;
  • and report back with results at the Sept. 9 council meeting.

“Staff has been given direction from council to take the items we’ve identified and they’re going to develop a consultation process to talk to residents about that,” said Coun. Diana Dilworth, who chaired the committee of the whole meeting.

Potential changes to the zoning bylaw include:

  • including all basements (finished or unfinished) in floor area ratio (FAR) calculations;
  • including garages and carports in FAR calculations;
  • limiting podium height (regardless of slope) to no higher than 0.5 m above grade (a podium will be defined as any structure, such as exposed foundation walls, columns, stilts, retaining walls, fill or other means of elevating a building above grade);
  • limiting the height of retaining walls that are required for house construction to a maximum of eight feet;
  • measuring the full height of a building with a peaked roof to the top of the peak and capping it at a maximum of 34.5 feet;
  • counting double-height/lofted entrances as twice the floor area in FAR calculations.
  • limiting the eave height to that of the existing or previous house on the lot based on measurements from sea level;
  • and adopting a new grade calculation based on the average of the lowest elevation of the front and rear of the property.

Staff will also review the potential to increase front and rear yard setbacks and provide options to address the problem of blocked view corridors.

Tuesday’s discussion focused mainly on the building of mega homes in the Ioco corridor, with council and staff expected to focus on that area as a priority.

City manager Kevin Ramsay said staff will need additional resources for the public consultation process and to complete the work in an expedited fashion.

Once area-specific zones are created for Ioco, Moody Centre and Glenayre, staff will be investigating other neighbourhoods as well, including Coronation Park, Noons Creek, Westport and College Park.



Changes expected this fall to ‘monster house’ rules
Port Moody council debates for four hours
Jeremy Deutsch / Tri-Cities Now
August 1, 2014

Port Moody politicians and many residents alike may agree something needs to be done about the proliferation of monster homes in the city, but changing the rules may not be as easy as it might appear.

On Tuesday, city council spent hours coming up with direction for staff and potential changes to the existing zoning bylaws for new single family homes.

Council approved a motion for staff to be directed to report back at the first meeting in September with a plan for creating area-specific zones for Ioco, Moody Centre and Glenayre.

Council also directed staff to begin work on the public consultation aspect of any changes that might be brought forward in the fall.

While some on council wanted to see changes right away before the summer break, including a moratorium on any new construction, city staff asked for more time.

City manager Kevin Ramsay noted a moratorium is not possible, adding city staff would like to provide comment at a later date on any specific motions relating to the current bylaw.

“Any simple change to height or area calculations, they may seem simple with one type of situation, but they complicate other areas of our zoning bylaw,” he told council, noting it could take up to five months to make the changes.

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.

In June, council promised to look at the issue of monster homes in the city, while hosting a town hall meeting on the issue in July that drew a large crowd of concerned residents.

City staff noted the municipality has dealt with only five or six building permits for new single-family homes this year.

Following Tuesday’s discussion, Mayor Mike Clay said he figured all along making changes to the current bylaw wouldn’t be that easy or quick.

“There’s a huge amount of issues that need to be considered that aren’t as easy as just drawing a two-dimensional diagram on a piece of paper and saying, ‘This is what we should do,'” he told the Tri-Cities NOW.

The mayor also suggested the city needs to come up with a well-thought-out plan with options it can take to the community for feedback.

Coun. Zoe Royer agreed the issues are complex, noting council created a number of suggestions for staff to consider. However, she was disappointed one of her resolutions was turned down. It would have required owners and builders to consult immediate neighbours, and to post a site plan, elevation and roof plan on the property before obtaining building permits.

“We could come up with the best plan in the world … but at the end of the day, builders are very sophisticated and their goal is to maximize their property value, and the best thing we can do is make this process even more transparent,” Royer said.

Coun. Gerry Nuttall said some of the suggestions to control the development of mega homes are good, specifically establishing the base line for new construction as the height of the eaves of the present house and determining the grade as the average height of the property.

While he believes the city can keep a tighter deadline than five months, he said it is important any changes be done correctly. Some of the changes council approved for staff to consider include:

That basements, finished and unfinished, be included in floor area ratio (FAR) calculations

That all garages and carports be included in FAR calculations

That the full height of a building with a peaked roof be measured to the top of the peak and capped at a maximum of 34.5 feet

That double-height space (a lofted entrance) be counted as twice the floor area in FAR calculations

That staff review the potential to increase rear and front yard setbacks and provide council with options to address the problem of impacted view corridors.

Council also approved an allocation of up to $10,000 to assist in the facilitation of a community consultation process.

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