A public hearing was held regarding the proposed secondary suites bylaw amendment at the regular council meeting last Tuesday. No major objections were raised by members of the public, although one letter was submitted to the hearing.
The letter included concerns about “absentee landlords,” where neither the main living quarters or the secondary suite would be lived in by the property owner.
Councillor Charlie Northrup said council had debated that issue already, but realized that they couldn’t restrict home owners from renting out their house as a single family unit, and by extension, couldn’t stop owners from renting out a whole house with two units.
The letter also mentioned that owners of houses with secondary suites should be required to cover the extra costs of servicing those homes, an issue addressed later in the meeting with the adopting of three bylaws regarding the cost of water, sewer and garbage collection user fees.
“That was just to ensure that if you do have a secondary suite, you’re going to be paying an increased fee for the water and the sewer,” said mayor Cress Farrow after the meeting.
For both water and sewer fees, seniors will no longer be receiving an exemption. The exemption will be phased out at a rate of 25 per cent per year, starting this year.
For both water and sewer fees, secondary suites will be charged at an additional 40 per cent of the residential fee for the home; however, residential rates will actually decrease slightly over the next four years. Commercial and metered rates will increase by 1.5 per cent each year from 2011 to 2014.
Garbage collection fees will increase by two per cent in 2011 and 2012. Homes with secondary suites will not be charged an extra fee unless they require an additional garbage cart; if that’s the case, the annual flat fee will be doubled.
The Town of Smithers building bylaw was also adopted, with changed regarding secondary suites included. Voluntary inspections of secondary suites will have a $200 fee, however the fee will be waived until December 31, 2016.