By Kate Irwin
There is no need to legalize secondary suites in Fairmont and Windermere due to lack of demand from residents, the area’s representative told board members at a regional district meeting on Thursday, July 5th.
As a new bylaw adjustment permitting auxiliary suites in single family dwellings and garages works its way thorugh the approval process, and with a public hearing pending, no residents from Area F have yet stepped forward to express interest, explained Wendy Booth, area director.
“No-one has approached me, no champions have stepped up to support this and I don’t want to push something on residents that they don’t want,” she told fellow board members at the Columbia Valley Directors Committee Meeting in Cranbrook on Thursday.
“Some people are dead-set against it [allowing secondary suites] and, although a letter was sent to the paper, nobody has spoken out in favour.”
Last fall, Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) staff began examining the zoning bylaw currently disallowing secondary suites in all but a few areas of Fairmont Hot Springs and Panorama.
On May 5th, the Regional District of East Kootenay Board of Directors voted to move ahead with drafting a new bylaw, permitting secondary suites, which came before the board at their June 8th monthly meeting.
At this point, Ms. Booth requested the exclusion of Area F — which includes the communities of Columere, Fairmont, Windermere, Dutch Creek, Rushmere and the small hamlets along the west side of Lake Windermere.
But Area G director Gerry Wilkie said he is disappointed to see large areas of the valley potentially excluded from allowing secondary suites.
“It just strikes me as almost tragic that Area F will be excluded,” he said. “To me a big part of working together is to be able to establish, in this day and age especially, a good stock of affordable housing.
“Given the importance of that for our current socioeconomic state I’m very disappointed that almost 4,000 homes will be excluded.”
Dee Conklin, mayor of Radium Hot Springs, emphasized that directors can only operate based on constituents’ wishes.
“If there is no appetite right now, as Director Booth said, in two years, if all of a sudden things change, then she has something to go on,” she said. “Right now, with the responses she got she would be committing political suicide to move ahead.”
Invermere’s mayor, Gerry Taft, spoke out in support of a public hearing to determine interest in the proposal, but cautioned that heel-dragging could make it more difficult to create future affordable housing solutions locally.
“If you want help with affordable housing in the future, if you haven’t allowed for secondary suites, then [the province] will tell you to do that first,” he said.
Secondary suites are currently permitted in Invermere and Radium Hot Springs, but not in the valley’s other towns and villages.
At a full regional district area directors meeting on Friday, the board decided to move ahead with a public hearing on secondary suites and the exclusion of Area F from the current draft of the bylaw.
The hearing will be held at the Edgewater Community Hall on July 24th at 7 p.m.