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Sidney aims to attract younger residents

May 30 2012

Sidney hopes to change its status as having the third oldest population in Canada with zoning changes aimed at enticing families and working people to the seaside community.

A sweeping zoning bylaw proposal focuses on creating "attainable housing" in the form of more secondary suites, carriage houses and higher density areas near Beacon Avenue.

The bylaw has received third reading after a public hearing this week, but still needs to be given final approval by council.

It is to be back before council June 11.

"We're really trying to build a better balance in our community," Mayor Larry Cross said Tuesday. "We need more families here and they need housing they can afford."

According to Statistics Canada, Sidney has the third highest number of people over the age of 65 living in it. Some 36.9 per cent are senior citizens. Only Qualicum Beach, with 47.2 per cent, and Parksville, with 37.1 per cent, have more seniors.

Many young families and members of the service industry who work in Sidney would love to live in the community, Cross said, but there are not affordable places to buy or rent.

Instead, the employees in Sidney's industrial areas and the service industry live in the West Shore and commute, spending too much money on ever more expensive gas and contributing to greenhouse gases, Cross said.

"Some of the ideas in this bylaw push Sidney well in front of modern trends in trying to address housing issues," Cross said.

The bylaw would allow several forms of secondary accommodation on eight blocks near Orchard Avenue, which has many alleyways. That makes the area a natural for more carriage house infill homes, said Randy Humble, the town's chief administrative officer.

"Sidney is built out. This bylaw really tries to take a very progressive perspective for alternative housing forms," Humble said.

Secondary suites would be allowed within multi-family residential areas and row house dwellings.

Density would also be encouraged on and near Beacon Avenue, Sidney's main street.

Buildings could be a maximum of three storeys on Beacon but up to four storeys on adjacent streets.

But several people were concerned at the public hearing that the changes could put their single family residential homes in the position of being nonconforming to the new bylaw. That would make it difficult for selling and remortgaging, several said.

Cross said the new bylaw is a "broad brush" look at how the community wants to attract development and families and that it can be "fine-tuned" if need be.

"As you encounter difficulties, you deal with them," he said. "Within the bylaw there may be hardship cases where people may find themselves in a challenging position. I think council would be very sympathetic to those who came forward."

kwestad@timescolonist.com

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