2014-08-19: Port Moody dream home on hold

Port Moody dream home on hold
Jeremy Deutsch / Tri-Cities Now
August 19, 2014 04:56 PM

For Bill Bursey, the now-empty lot on Ioco Road represents the future home for several generations of his family.

His daughter and son-in-law bought the property on the lower side of the Port Moody street with plans of building a new home that would be for the entire extended family.

Bursey and his wife, now retired, would live on the top floor, while the younger generation would take the main floor and basement, the latter being a walkout because of the slope of the property.

Plans were submitted to the city a year ago, while the former home was knocked down in the process.

But this dream home, or at least part of it, is now in doubt after the city made changes to how it handles the zoning bylaw around new homes.

Bursey said he was assured by the city his plans were fine and the project was just days away from getting the necessary permits approved, when he received notice last week that the work couldn’t move forward.

The issue surrounds the floor area ratio, or FAR.

The FAR in Port Moody allows for a house to take up 50 per cent of the lot size, but doesn’t include an unfinished basement or garage in the calculation.

In the case of Bursey’s proposed house, the lot is 7,500 square feet, which would give them 3,750 square feet of living space.

However, the walkout basement, which the family intended to finish later, wasn’t included in the FAR.

The entire structure would actually be 4,500 square feet, a number that has run afoul of the bylaw.

“It’s essentially going to make it impossible for us to build this house,” Bursey told the Tri-Cities NOW.

And Bursey believes his family’s plan is the victim of a larger debate in the community around so-called monster homes.

Last month, city council gave staff direction to come up with changes to existing zoning bylaws for new single-family dwellings to deal with the proliferation of large homes in the community.

One area of the city where changes are being considered is along the Ioco corridor.

Bursey said he understands some of the concerns from residents on the issue, pointing out a couple of large homes in the area he doesn’t necessarily agree with either, but maintains he’s not building a monster home and the structure wouldn’t block any views.

“We’re being caught up in the meat grinder here. Our house is essentially very similar in character and design to the houses on either side,” he said.

Bursey also predicts that tighter rules around unfinished basements in the area will lower the value of existing properties.

It appears the family has the city’s mayor on its side.

Port Moody Mayor Mike Clay is critical of how city staff have handled the situation, questioning the timing of the change, and pointing out the interpretation of the bylaw for years has been to allow people to finish the basement later.

“You don’t just say we’re going to change it midstream on the guy,” he said, adding he’s never agreed with the city’s interpretation to allow basements to be finished later.

Clay also believes Bursey’s home is being singled out because of the monster home debate, but suggested the plans presented have noting to do with blocking views or height concerns.

“The only common denominator here is it’s in response to the town hall meeting and the discussion around building heights, [at] which we gave very clear direction, we don’t want knee-jerk reactions, we want a properly thought out, methodical changing of how we’re going to calculate the heights,” he said.

In response, city staff said the change affecting Bursey’s plan is not related to the monster home debate.

Acting city manager Neal Carley explained that a process internally at City Hall recently changed after staff discovered that in some cases, homeowners were finishing their basements, but not getting the space reviewed to ensure it met the bylaw.

“I think what’s happened is, some people went, ‘Oh, I can get away with this,’ and exceeded the limits of the zoning bylaw, and no one will really know,” he said, adding the issue comes down to compliance with the bylaw.

Carley also suggested the internal change has nothing to do with the current discussion about monster homes, but said he can see how they could get mixed up, given the timing.

“It’s just one more level to make sure everything is in compliance with existing bylaws,” he said, noting the discussion around monster homes revolves more around form and character.

He recommends to developers that any applications they make to the city be in compliance with the bylaw.

As for Bursey, he’s not planning to give up on his dream home.

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