Oak Bay’s only legal purpose-built duplex in 30 years was approved last year and it took four years from the time of the application to the time of occupancy.
That duplex is at the junction of Cadboro Bay Road and Estevan Avenue.
Now, Oak Bay is on the verge of approving a second “legal conforming” duplex when the Wootton Crescent rezoning application goes to public hearing on Monday. There’s about 80 duplexes in Oak Bay which are legal non-conforming but used to be legal.
Built in 1957, the Wootton duplex was one of those legal conforming units for its first three decades until the Oak Bay council of the 1980s decided they didn’t want anymore duplexes. At the time they ruled to change the duplexes from legal conforming to legal non-conforming. Ultimately, it was a ruling to push the unruly duplexes out of town. Owners thereby have been unable to acquire building permits for any significant upgrades. Duplexes can only be replaced as single-family units.
“It’s a historical thing of interest,” said Mayor Kevin Murdoch. “We created a bylaw for that [first] duplex and we’re now applying it to an existing duplex to allow significant rework.”
Owner-applicants Glen and Marylou Wakefield have lived in their side of the Wootton duplex for 20 years. Their $300,000 renovation proposal includes adding a second floor to both sides of the house. The neigbhourhood is on board and they only questions they’ve heard is why it’s taking so long to get approved, Glen Wakefield said.
It should be easier, Wakefileld added, especially with about 80 other “legal non-conforming” duplexes in Oak Bay.
“It doesn’t make sense that the duplexes that exist within the municipality are within the old zoning but can’t do any additions,” he said. “It doesn’t serve the purpose of the municipality with the need for rentals. I also couldn’t upgrade my duplex to the fire code and other basics.”
Of course, in the 1980s, a pub application on Oak Bay Avenue was blocked because of parking concerns and worries the Avenue would become an extension of Victoria’s downtown nightlife. Eleven years later the Penny Farthing approval proved Oak Bay still rolls its sidewalks up at 7 p.m. Needless to say, there’s a been a shift in thinking around development and density as council unanimously voted on May 21 to refer the Wootton application to a public hearing on Monday (June 10).
Surprisingly, the Wakefields were initially asked to provide $350,000 in amendment fees to upgrade the sewer, water and sidewalks to the house based on the intention to eventually stratify the two upgraded halves. In pleading that case council waived the amendment charges.
“In this case we’re just fixing up the house like anyone does,” Wakefield said. “It’s no different than what happens all over Oak Bay. But we were asked community amendment charge, that developers would pay, not typical to renovations.”
In fact, despite adding a floor to each side of the duplex the number of dwellers will likely reduce as the District is asking the suite under one side of the house to be vacated.
“It’s important to remember that the suite is in current use and that this is three [units] becoming two,” said Coun. Andrew Appleton during the council deliberation. “It’s a supportable application but [also] unfortunate that a dwelling unit is being lost. I struggle with that.”
Appleton added the elimination of secondary suites could be reconsidered as Oak Bay is currently reviewing secondary suites.
Wakefield hopes that the original bylaw can instead be reversed to make all the legal non-conforming duplexes legal again, instead of putting owners seeking a permit through a year’s worth of applications and wait times to get the property rezoned.
In fact, the same was said at the May 7 Advisory Planning Commission, which forwarded a comment that generally “legal nonconforming duplexes in Oak Bay… should be approved more holistically whereas each application to improve a duplex requires a process that is onerous on both applicants and the District,” said the May 21 council agenda.