Community association pleads: Surrey, ‘close those loopholes’

Cloverdale Community Association says Surrey’s bylaws desperately need an update, as developer seeks break on parking rules.

Mike Bola

The Cloverdale Community Association is sounding the alarm over a townhome project in Clayton Heights, where a developer is asking for a break on parking requirements in an area where on-street parking is a contentious issue.

The proposal – at 18818 71 Avenue – was approved in 2012, and construction on the 18-unit townhouse complex is already underway.

But now the developer is seeking an exemption on the amount of parking required for half of the units.

To Mike Bola, president of the Cloverdale Community Association, it’s the latest example of developers circumventing Surrey’s land use planning process.

“The city needs to revisit its bylaws and close these loopholes,” he said.

Bola says the original application allowed two enclosed parking spaces and a driveway, which could be used as a third parking space for small vehicles.

Now, three years later, owner 0910638 B.C. Ltd. is seeking a development permit amendment that would allow one, unenclosed tandem parking space for nine street-fronting units.

If approved, the amendment would allow the developer to increase density and lot coverage.

“Even though this amendment is only modifying nine of the townhome units, this does mean that there would be nine less parking spaces which will now be pushed onto the street,” Bola said.

Besides, Bola said, plans show the development doesn’t provide any side-by-side garages, so it’s already being built to the maximum density.

With on-street parking already at a premium in the area, the association strongly opposed the parking amendment request when it came to a public hearing Feb. 2, and council agreed, he said.

This amendment will be heard during the Land Use meeting on April 13 at city hall. The public is welcome to attend and observe.

“Loopholes like the fact that this developer can ask for an amendment three years later is totally unacceptable,” Bola said.

The CCA is hoping council will reject the amendment request, once again keeping the community’s parking situation in mind.

Meantime, Bola said the case is further proof that some of the city’s bylaws need an overhaul.

For one thing, the Cloverdale Community Association would like to see city council impose a time limit on requesting zoning bylaw amendments like this one.

“There should be a time limit as to when a developer can ask for an amendment and once the time limit has expired, no other option should be available including appeals,” he said.

The Cloverdale Community Association’s role is to advocate on behalf of the community and act as a grassroots liaison to city council on issues affecting the community, such as development issues and infrastructure.

The association has appeared at transportation and infrastructure meetings, chaired by Coun. Tom Gill, to request other bylaw amendments.

The are promising signs of progress.

The Cloverdale Community Association asked city council to cap the number of tandem garages units in a development at 25 per cent, and the city countered with 50 per cent, he said.

“We’ve seen 100 per cent tandem units being put it,” he said. “Developers are saying, ‘Let’s just squeeze in everything we can.’ It causes problems with densification.”

The CCA is currently lobbying the city to allow parking three cars in a row in driveways where legal secondary suites are allowed.

The current bylaw doesn’t allow this, Bola said.

To the association, it’s another example of out-of-date or inadequate bylaws that make it difficult for Surrey residents to work around.

“People aren’t going to place a parking pad in the middle of their yard to please the city,” he said. “They will build one right next to the existing driveway so it blends in with the landscaping. We all know in real life that  a homeowner does not want their driveway used by their tenant since allowing this would make it difficult for them to get in and out of their garage.”

The association is also pressing council to increase the penalty on multiple secondary suites from $1,000 a year to $5,000 a year.

Alternately, the city could implement a two-tiered system where there would be a $2,500 charge for a first offence and $5,000 annually each year after that, if the illegal suite was still operating.

“We’ll put a dent in landlords’ pockets.”

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