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Wellesley puts interim controls on secondary dwelling units deemed too large

A provincial push to increase housing stocks means municipalities have to change zoning rules, allowing for the likes of duplexing single-family homes, adding rental space and creating income streams for homeowners.

The Ontario government last fall amended the Planning Act to allow for the creation of accessory dwelling units, requiring municipalities to follow suit. Wellesley Township has moved in that direction, making it easier to gain clearance for a secondary dwelling on a residential property. But as councillors heard this week, that’s led to some unforeseen, and undesired, consequences.

Specifically, the owner of a St. Clements property is proposing to build a detached garage with a living unit attached. The half-acre site could see a living unit up to 1,200 square feet and a detached garage of up to 1,800 sq. ft. The combined 3,000 sq. ft. would be larger than the existing house on the property.

“It was not the intent of these regulations to allow for buildings that were larger than the primary house and to ensure that similar situations do not arise again the zoning regulations should be amended and clarified,” said director of planning Geoff VanderBaaren in a report to council presented August 18.

He recommended an interim control bylaw to prevent any more such applications until the township has time to carry out a zoning review that will prevent such large secondary dwelling units.

The interim control bylaw means that building second detached dwelling units within specifically lands zoned – settlement residential, urban residential and urban residential two – would be restricted. The bylaw will be in effect for one year, during which time staff will undertake a review of the zoning bylaw regulations that pertain to secondary housing units.

In response to Coun. Carl Smit’s question about how many households are “in the crosshairs” due to the review, Coun. Peter van der Maas noted no others are currently on the docket. Avoiding a repeat of the St. Clements example is what the bylaw is intended to cover off, as otherwise that property is “good to go ahead” under the current regulations.

The regulations were not intended to allow for such large structures to be built, with council passing the interim control bylaw to ensure that similar situations do not arise.

Provincial changes to the Planning Act allow homeowners to create an additional residential unit in their main residence and another unit in another building on the same property, such as above garages or in laneways. The move is part of the More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan announced last summer by the Ford government, with widespread changes across multiple ministries and pieces of legislation.

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