Skip to content

New zoning bylaws to allow for more residential density in Fernie

New city bylaws will allow residents to build up to four small multi-unit dwellings on their land

Fernie homeowners will soon be able to build more dwelling units on their properties, with bylaw changes that allow for increased density on residential land.

The City of Fernie is changing local zoning bylaws to ensure the community is in alignment with new provincial legislation that seeks to increase housing density across B.C.

The new bylaws will allow residents with low density residential properties to add or build up to four small scale multi-unit dwellings on their land. Changes follow the introduction of new provincial legislation last fall through Bill 44, which requires communities with populations over 5,000 to alter bylaws to accommodate more housing.

“The idea is to create a certain level of gentle density in residential neighbourhoods that takes advantage of the land that currently exists, and increase the density and potential affordability for housing in communities in British Columbia,” said Mayor Milligan.

Small multi-unit dwellings include secondary suites in single-family homes like basement apartments, and accessory units like a suite above a garage or a smaller home in a backyard. Duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, houseplexes and townhouses are also on the list.

City planning manger Derek Cimolini said multi-units will be allowed in modular homes, but not manufactured homes, as the latter is not built in accordance with the B.C Building Code.

Land measuring between 250 square meters and 280 square meters will be permitted to have up to three units, while larger plots will be allowed up to four.

Cimolini said this is a distinct change from the current bylaw, which only permits up to two units.

There will be additional height restrictions for multi-unit builds. The city has proposed that dwelling units within six meters of the rear property line not surpass eight meters in height, and those further than the six meter mark not surpass 10 meters. Accessory buildings have a proposed height limit of five meters.

“The intent behind that is to try and keep the neighbourhood character to a certain extent, so it’s not like all of a sudden someone’s building an 11 meter high house for something that was allowed to be 10 meters in the past,” Cimolini explained.

Milligan said that while he likes the idea of using pre-existing infrastructure to create more housing, it won’t come without challenges.

“You’re not necessarily building new infrastructure to increase the number of dwellings for people. I think it’s a good creative solution,” he said.

“It does come with challenges. One is insuring our infrastructure can sustain that kind of density increase in a number of neighbourhoods. We also have to look at what the implications of four dwelling units on residential lots means for parking,” he added.

New multi-unit builds will indeed have an impact on other infrastructure-related bylaws that pertain to parking, water, sewage, and snow removal. Cimolini said the city will be completing an Incremental Build-Out Analysis once the bylaw has been adopted. It will examine building trends, so that numbers and data can be incorporated into long-term city planning.

Bylaw changes will be brought to council at the end of the month, with adoption scheduled prior to the provincial deadline on June 30. There will be no public hearing, since the changes were mandated by the provincial government.

About the Author: Gillian Francis

Read more