Homeowners cannot trade basement space, which now may be excluded from a home's gross floor area calculation, and add it elsewhere to their homes as par for the course, particularly if their neighbours oppose the changes.
This week council denied a request to add a fourth floor to a single-family home in Bear Creek Estates in Creekside and among its considerations was the series of correspondence from worried neighbours. Council's decision was in line with staff's recommendations.
The neighbours allege in their letters that the new owners, who are seeking more space, have had their home posted on Airbnb for nightly rentals.
"The bylaws of Bear Creek Strata prohibit rentals for periods less than 30 days, essentially mimicking the RMOW's RS-1 restrictions," wrote Patrick Mitchell, administrator of the strata. "The Strata is concerned the proposed increase in living area may be intended for a use other than homeowner use and enjoyment."
The homeowners say they want more space to accommodate a growing family and that the children do not have a safe place to play, and are forced to play on the street.
The application for a height variance to allow the fourth floor comes after the new basement floor area exclusion regulations were approved by council in 2012.
Those new regulations mean 563 sq. ft. of the basement floor space in this house could be excluded from the gross floor area calculations. The homeowners wanted to add that space to the top of their home. But they needed council approval to vary the height restrictions from 7.6 metres to 10.01 metres.
"This was definitely not the intention of the basement gross floor area exclusions," said Acting Mayor Jack Crompton. "We'd been warned about it."
Full-time residents Doug Konkin and Shelagh Ryan-McNee are the immediate neighbours.
Almost from the moment the home was bought in June 2014 they say the problems began and "we endured a summer of stag and stagettes."
In advance of this application, they allege, the home was removed from Airbnb.
In their letter to council they said: "As past actions can predict future problems, I am sure you can appreciate the alarm generated by viewing the architect's drawings of the proposed renovations. Adding an entire floor and positioning a deck three stories up effectively converts the existing house into an apartment building."
In his report to council planning analyst Brook McCrady wrote that the proposal would alter the dwelling's massing, disrupting the continuity between neighbouring homes.
"It is staff's opinion that the variance proposal does not seem reasonable, does not maintain the intent of the regulation, and there are foreseeable negative impacts on neighbours and the streetscape," wrote McCrady.
More neighbourhood opposition
Neighbours in Nesters were also concerned about noise and partying at a local pension with eight guestrooms called Heidi Haus.
Council was asked to allow staff to continue processing bylaws to legitimize the existing development, which has been modified and changed over several decades. The neighbours, however, are concerned and have brought their concerns to council.
There is a carport encroaching on to one neighbouring property and the pension owners have now applied for a demolition permit to remove that carport.
There are also concerns about the construction of a retaining wall and a storage shed. That shed too will be moved.
Several concerns have also been raised about the operation of the pension, under new owners for more than a year, including noise and late night music.
There has been just one official complaint to police in the last year.
"It is cleaning up a long history of some wrongs and some mistakes," said Councillor John Grills.
Councillor Andree Janyk asked if the neighbourhood issues would be addressed as the bylaws are developed.
Further details will be ironed out in the next report to council.