A North Surrey neighbourhood that was once safe from monster homes is battling “a very large loophole that you can drive a truck and a small home through,” says the president of the South Westminster Ratepayers’ Association (SWRA).
In 2006, Surrey council adopted a bylaw restricting the size and building height of single-family homes in St. Helen’s Park, near 104 Avenue and 127 Street.
Currently, the maximum allowable floor area is 3,200 square feet, including a garage or carport, basement and all other accessory buildings or structures. The building height cannot exceed 22 feet.
But SWRA president Grant Rice says the interpretation of what the city considers a structure and what the community believed to be a structure is at issue.
“I think most of the community believes that covered decks would be included in the calculation,” said Rice.
What is happening in some cases, he said, is covered decks are later enclosed and made into additional living space, creating a house much larger than 3,200 square feet.
He points to a house under construction in the neighbourhood.
“We looked at the plans that were submitted and approved and there is almost, I think, 2,200 square feet of deck,” Rice said.
“It’s a very large loophole that you could drive a truck and a small home through.”
In a report presented to Surrey council on July 11, the planning and development department recommended that city staff work with the SWRA and the approximately 400 property owners in the St. Helen’s Park neighbourhood to determine what amendments to the bylaw are needed.
That motion was opposed by all councillors, with the exception of Judy Villeneuve and Bob Bose.
Coun. Linda Hepner said council heard clearly from the community when the bylaw was first developed.
“I believe we have honoured what the residents in St. Helen’s were looking for,” said Hepner. “I don’t think there is a loophole.”
Hepner says she has only heard of two homeowners in the area that have misinterpreted the bylaw.
“I believe that the actual issue was sent back to staff saying if there are those two occasions where (homeowners) have violated a very clear ceiling of FAR (Floor Area Ratio), then (the city) should go to court with it,” said Hepner. “And that doesn’t mean the bylaw in and of itself is in any way faulty, that just means that follow-up was faulty relative to those two.”
Council did pass a motion on July 11 that puts a freeze on covered deck construction for now.
The next step involves the SWRA executive going back and talking with residents in the community, ahead of a public hearing on Sept. 12 at 7 p.m.