Houses too big for their britches

New Westwind Ratepayer Association calling on city to limit house size and character

In response to the city’s slow-moving acknowledgement of zoning bylaw loopholes that are “decimating” neighbourhoods, longtime local real estate agent Lynda Terborg has created the city’s first ratepayer association for her Westwind neighbourhood — the Westwind Ratepayer Association for Positive Development.

“We don’t want wards, we don’t want a representative for Westwind, we just want (the city) to listen to us and have input, not just sit behind closed doors and come up with a solution of their own,” said Terborg, who is urging other residents to do the same in their areas.

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A ratepayer association is a group of residents who lobby the city on behalf of its neighbourhood’s interests. They are prominent in other Metro Vancouver cities, said Terborg.

At issue is the city’s failure to amend roughly 4,000 land-use contracts — initiated in the 1970s — which allow homebuilders to build three-storey homes on relatively small lots. Such contracts don't fall under the city's zoning bylaws.

“It was incomplete language. Who would have known that,” said Terborg, noting now that property values have risen, developers are taking full advantage of the land-use contracts that don't clearly dictate a home’s living space relative to the property footprint.

“Developers are already door-knocking here so hard, and they’re not offering owners their due market value.”

She points to one recently built home that is listed for $2.4 million after the older, now demolished, home was sold for $784,000. The new, three-storey home has a total floor area of 6,200 square feet, whereas the older home was just 1,600 square feet, on a 5,300 square foot lot.

Members say they worry about the future of the neighbourhood due to its unaffordability for new families.

“Good people run away when they see bad things happen,” said Terborg.

Another problem she sees is the city’s lack of design protocol. She points to builders who have built “French chateaus” next to modest homes. 

The city claims the land-use contracts were out of the city’s controls. However, last year the province changed laws to allow the city to amend the contracts. Terborg argued that the city could have lobbied the province years ago, and, at least, should do something now. 

“Now they pretend it’s a provincial problem. Provincial problem — my foot! They had the problem in wording in the first amendment,” said Terborg

“It’s almost a whole year later and we aren’t talking publicly about a fix. Look at the escalation of permits. In 10 years, we’ll be decimated,” she warned.

Terborg said large homes built under land-use contracts are “out of character” and would be non-conforming under city zoning.

The new homes overshadow older ones, robbing them of sunlight, thus causing drainage problems and ruining gardens in their wake. All-in-all quality of life, for those who wish to remain in their family homes, is being ruined, said Terborg.

Coun. Linda McPhail, who lives in the Westwind neighbourhood, concurred that some of the homes “are really pushing the boundaries” and offered to review the bylaws.

Joe Erceg, Richmond’s manager of planning and development, has stated the city is in the process of amending the current terms of land-use contracts.

@WestcoastWood

gwood@richmond-news.com

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