In a followup to the story we ran asking for details about why the Tiffin Homeowners Association is upset about the forthcoming bylaw and planning changes surrounding secondary suites, we received the following communique and have published it in its entirety. It now seems clear that the contentious issue is around a decision that blurs the lines around the definition of a second suite – which from our research published previously is not synonymous with a duplex.
So the question we have for our planning department and Council is quite simply: is Midland equating a secondary suite with a duplex for planning and development purposes? If so, where is the precedent? The definitions we found online from relevant Canadian sources does not make mention of “duplex” and it does not see to fit in the spirit of a secondary suite.
Perhaps the 3 yr rule may be overly harsh since it could easily be argued that roughing in or finishing a “secondary suite” within the definitions we have found online when a home is initially constructed could make economic sense, as opposed to renovating after a few years. Furthermore, perhaps the homeowner needs the income from day one… However, clearly a duplex, from design to build is a different type of building and dwelling than an add-on suite or basement apartment.
As usual, the devil is always in the details. We look for some clarity from our planning department and Council about this issue and evidently, so do the homeowners in Tiffin.
Letter To The Editor
OUR CHALLENGE CONTINUES
Town Planning seems determined to sabotage Midland Council’s February 22 decision that requires dwellings to be 3 years old before a second unit can be created. Unless Council’s decision is maintained, developers will be permitted to construct commercial rental duplexes, like those on south Aberdeen, on any lot zoned for single detached houses. We need you to again show your support for Council’s decision. Within Tiffin and Captain’s Cove, there are some 40 unsold lots. These areas are at risk of having the rest of the street filled with identical commercial duplexes side by side, similar to what has already occurred at south Aberdeen. Midland has at least 5 other partially completed subdivisions at similar risk. When homeowners purchased in these subdivisions, they were zoned only for single detached houses. Purchasers had no reason to expect they would be blindsided by zoning bylaws changed after the fact. THA supports healthy, mixed communities where second units get created as neighbourhoods evolve. There are some 7,500 existing single detached houses in Midland, including more than 200 in Tiffin and Captain’s Cove alone. We support Council’s decision to allow second units in any of them. But we categorically oppose the total lack of planning that would allow opportunistic developers to build new duplexes anywhere they wish just by calling them houses with second units.
THREAT TO COUNCIL DECISION
When it adopted the ‘three year rule’, Council rejected a Planning recommendation to allow new commercial duplexes any place a detached house can be built. Planning has advised THA that it no longer requires our participation as directed by Council. Planning has also proceeded to obtain legal advice (without any direction from Town Council to do that) which Planning claims requires two bylaws, one of which can be appealed by a duplex developer who does not like the ‘three year rule’. When asked to share this legal advice with THA, Planning refused our request. And, almost unbelievably, Planning has apparently also refused to share this advice with councillors before a Council meeting on March 29th. George Dixon, one of our members and a retired municipal lawyer has written to Council showing how passing two by-laws not only undermines THA’s position and Council’s own decision but also helps those who oppose the ‘three year rule’. It is very puzzling that Planning seems determined to thwart Council’s decisions.
THA NEEDS YOUR HELP AGAIN!
Public meetings are currently scheduled for 7:00 pm on April 6 at Town Hall to hear from members of the public who either support or oppose Council’s decisions about second units. We expect Jennark, the south Aberdeen duplex builder, to attend and voice opposition to Council’s proposed three-year restriction. Your THA executive will attend to support Council’s proposals. Every other member of the public who would like to express views on this subject has a right to attend the meeting and address Council or make written submissions.
This is obviously a big night where a large turnout and participation by THA members will help reinforce Council’s decision. We ask you to attend the upcoming Public Meeting on Second Units on Wednesday, April 6th, at 7:00 pm, in Council Chambers. We also ask you to email the Town Clerk – Andrea Fay [email protected] indicating that you support Council’s proposed zoning bylaw that will require dwellings to be 3 years old before a second unit can be created. When writing indicate your message concerns the “PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO THE TOWN OF MIDLAND’S ZONING BY-LAW RESPECTING SECOND UNITS”.
As our group has learned from our objections to the rezoning of Edgehill Park to become a commercial development, the “Purchasers had no reason to expect they would be blindsided by zoning bylaws changed after the fact.” argument has no impact on planning decisions by the Town or Council. It now seems painfully clear that you cannot bank on your zoning or official plan provisions remaining unchanged after you invest in property in Midland. Council has the prerogative to change zoning as it sees fit and the only recourse are OMB challenges which can range from $25,000-$75,000 – financial barriers that crush opposition from all but the most wealthy opponents.