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Sunday, December 4, 2022
Opinion: Provincial changes mean townmust allowsecondary dwellings on properties
Developer Rainer Hummel's suit against the Town of NOTL was initially tossed out by a St. Catharines judge. But Ontario's highest court set aside that ruling, citing several legal errors. Supplied

Rainer Hummel

Special to The Lake Report

In 2019, Bill 108 amended the Planning Act to provide more options for homeowners, regardless of what their home's zoning is.  

This legislation permits two residential units on the same property. This includes detached, semi-detached or townhouses.

This new provincial legislation required municipalities to implement, by an official plan amendment, the ability for any homeowner to create an additional residential unit on a single property.

The Region of Niagara's proposed official plan encourages municipalities to implement policies permitting secondary units. In essence, every home can become two homes.

The purpose of this change was to make home ownership more viable because of the additional supplementary income. It was also to provide for additional housing options that are more affordable.  

Niagara-on-the-Lake's official plan is quite old and has had many amendments. The attempts by town councils led by Burroughs, Eke, Darte and Disero to bring in a new official plan have all failed.  

Essentially all four attempts are much the same document and the latest one does not meet provincial legislation.  

So, if a municipality has not added these policies to its official plan and zoning bylaws through amendments, then someone may apply for this permission through a private application.

If a municipality turns down additional dwelling units being requested by an applicant, the town would be in conflict with the Planning Act.   So everyone in town, whether rural or urban, has a statutory right to a second dwelling unit.  

Since the town does not have this in its official plan or zoning bylaw, you can theoretically make the request through a minor variance application, comply with the Ontario Building Code and zoning setbacks, and the town cannot turn you down.  

The dwelling unit request cannot be appealed, as that is an as of right option.

A dwelling unit can be in the form of an apartment within the dwelling, whether in the basement or another part of the house. It can be in an addition or even in an accessory building on the property, such as a barn or even a new build in the form of a granny flat in the rear yard. 

The current town council has had three years to implement zoning requirements for additional dwellings, such as parking requirements. The Town of NOTL does not seem to have taken ownership of this by developing the controls and permissions in a proactive manner.

So on its face it appears like it is not a permitted use locally, but that is simply because the town has not updated its official plan and zoning bylaws yet.  

However, this is your right and it is not the homeowner's problem that the town is in conflict with the legislation of a higher level of government. Many municipalities have implemented the policies.
So why has the Town of NOTL not taken advantage of this tool in the midst of a housing and affordability crisis?

Why does the town wait for conflict between neighbours and then blame the developer for a problem the town ignored and then allowed to become an issue?

When will we get an official plan that actually complies with legislation as opposed to a feel-good document that can never be approved?

So, look at your home and consider how you might provide a housing option to a new resident. You can help pay your occupancy cost and you cannot be turned down.

It can also make rental options more affordable.

If the town were to be proactive and implement the necessary policies, in accordance with Bill 108, this would open up hundreds of new and affordable housing units within Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

NOTL resident Rainer Hummel has developed dozens of housing projects in Niagara Region.