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Town of Okotoks streamlining approval of secondary suites

Okotoks council gave first reading to a bylaw amendment to reduce the notice time for development of secondary and accessory suites in an effort to reduce red tape.
Okotoks MDP 0004
Okotoks council gave first reading to a bylaw amendment to reduce the notice time for development of secondary and accessory suites in an effort to reduce red tape. (Brent Calver/Western Wheel)

Wait times for development of secondary and accessory suites may be reduced in Okotoks.

Council gave first reading to a land-use bylaw amendment at its meeting on April 28 that would reduce the amount of time notices of development for secondary and accessory suites must be posted.

Colton Nickel, development planner for the Town, said the amendment is designed to improve timelines for decisions on suites.

“Currently our land-use bylaw requires these types of dwellings have a notice posted for a 21-day period on the front lawn,” said Nickel. “This is about triple the amount of time of any other development permits in a residential district, where they have to post for seven days.”

He said the bylaw amendment would reduce the posting time for secondary suites – dwelling units located within the basement of a primary dwelling – or accessory suites – separate from the primary building, such as detached garage structures or above attached garages. Secondary suites would be posted for seven days and accessory suites for 14 days.

In addition, adjacent properties would not be circulated on development of secondary suites in the basement of homes, he said.

“For these type of suites a lot of the feedback is considered through the planning process already and doesn’t necessarily have as much say into when a decision is made on secondary suites,” said Nickel.

Notices would still be circulated for accessory dwellings, because they are separate from the primary building and could have more impact on neighbours as far as privacy, shadow and sightlines, he said.

The changes would go a long way toward reducing red tape for suite development, which could be an attractive housing option for the Town of Okotoks, he said.

“This aligns with the goals of council and our affordable housing task force,” said Nickel.

Mayor Bill Robertson expressed concern over reducing the timeline for posting notices in neighbourhoods.

“A number of the owners may not pay attention of a notice on the front lawn for only seven days,” said Robertson. “The lack of letters to the adjacent landowners, I’m having a little difficulty with that.”

He said secondary suites have been controversial in the community in the past and he’s concerned about the Town being accused of pushing things through without letting adjacent property owners know.

“The typical response, I can think of a few people, was that they might go away on holidays, come back and this is all a done-deal and they were never notified,” said Robertson.

The bylaw amendment will be brought before the Affordable Housing Task Force for comment on May 21 prior to coming back to council with a public hearing on May 25.

Krista Conrad,

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Krista Conrad

About the Author: Krista Conrad

Krista Conrad is the news reporter for and the Western Wheel newspaper covering Okotoks and Foothills County. For story tips contact [email protected]
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