Future homeowners may not have to go through a separate design and character review when building or updating a house in North Delta, after council voted to send the North Delta development permit process to a public hearing.
Since 2004, North Delta residents have had to go through an additional step when building or renovating a single-detached home. In addition to the building permit, which ensures the proposal is following the zoning bylaw, North Deltans also had to apply for a development permit, which regulated the form, character and design of the building.
The development permit specifically looked at the house design, particularly the front and side elevations, roof lines, materials, windows, garages, front entryways, setbacks, massing, landscaping and tree retention.
“This goes back a long way, and there was a period of time when people were starting to try and build bigger houses,” Counc. Bruce McDonald said during council on Monday, Nov. 19. McDonald was on council in 2004, when the permit process was first introduced.
At that time, the permit was created to help maintain the character of the North Delta community by ensuring new builds followed similar design principles to the homes in the surrounding neighbourhood. The development permit process was never put in place in Ladner or Tsawwassen.
“If there’s any benefit to the fact that housing has become so expensive, it’s that builders can’t afford to build ugly houses anymore,” McDonald said. “You can’t put that amount of money into things and not make them attractive.
“And I tell you, the houses that are being built in Ladner and Tsawwassen are every bit as compliant and attractive as anything we’re building in North Delta. So why would you have a different set of rules?”
During the public hearing for the Delta’s new zoning bylaw in January, many residents of North Delta agreed. Although the zoning bylaw doesn’t cover the North Delta development permit process, many residents spoke out against it.
“North Deltans are second-class citizens when it comes to developing their homes,” one resident said during the Jan. 30 meeting, noting that North Deltans have to submit paint colours to the planning department to get approval for developments.
“This is 2018,” he said. “Why aren’t you doing this in Ladner? Why aren’t you doing this in Tsawwassen?”
In addition to differences in how North Deltans can develop their homes — North Delta applicants often have to modify their preferred designs based on criteria and staff comments, while South Deltans do not — the development permit process also creates a disparity in how long it takes for building applications to be processed in the different communities.
In Ladner and Tsawwassen, a building permit takes between 10 to 30 days to obtain. In North Delta, the timeline for a development permit and building permit can be up to 120 days. (Some can take even longer.)
The cost is also different in the south and the north, as North Deltans have to pay an additional $810 to apply for a development permit, as well as $310 for each amendment.
Counc. Dylan Kruger, new to Delta council, spoke about the perceived disconnect between the North and the South that he saw during the zoning bylaw hearing.
“It was heartbreaking an disturbing to see a sense of alienation and discrimination from folks in North Delta,” Kruger said at council on Nov. 19.
“We need to be looking at what we can do as a city to make it easier to create more housing options and keep families in our community, and not more challenging.”
During the public meeting on Nov. 19, council gave first reading to a bylaw that would remove North Delta’s development permit process. (This would not apply to the North Delta housing cap, another North Delta-only regulation that was voted in with the zoning bylaw and is under review by the city.)
The bylaw will now go to a public hearing on Dec. 10.