A Richmond councillor cautioned against making housing developers guess where the “goalposts” are when they’re in the middle of planning a project.
Pakland Properties was asking city council to approve subdividing a property in south Richmond that currently has a duplex, in order to build two single-family homes with secondary suites in each.
The project, at Williams Road and Fourth Avenue close to Manoah Steves elementary, was the subject of a public hearing Monday night.
Coun. Carol Day – who eventually voted against the project – urged council to “think outside the box,” questioning how many of their friends and family could afford what the developer was proposing.
“Shouldn’t we be building housing that we need, instead of what’s easiest?” Day said.
She suggested referring the project back to city staff and the developer to rework it, saying the property could have a duplex, which might be more affordable, or a triplex.
But Coun. Alexa Loo said it’s not fair to ask developers to guess where the “goalposts” are and to ask them to bring forward projects in anticipation of what council might ask for.
Rather, developers make their plans according to the current Official Community Plan (OCP) and zoning bylaws.
“What we’re suggesting with this referral is they should have come forward with something that wasn’t already permitted and then we would have been happy to have entertained that, and I don’t think that’s a fair thing to possibly put on anybody,” Loo said.
Furthermore, instead of splitting the lot in half for two single-family homes, the developer could have just built one large house with a pool and tennis court, she added.
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said the fact the development will have two single-family homes with secondary suites sounded “pretty affordable” to him.
He pointed out Day's proposal to rework the project was contrary to the OCP, and he questioned how a developer could anticipate council wanting something that goes against current rules.
“I don’t think it falls into any category that is reasonable,” he added.
Coun. Michael Wolfe, who also voted against the project, said he knows many people in their thirties who couldn’t afford the proposed homes – rather a unit in a triplex or quadplex might be attainable.
Furthermore, the secondary suites won’t be suitable for families, Wolfe added.
In the end, Day’s suggestion to send the project back to the developer for reworking was defeated and the original project was approved.