LETTER: Sunshine Village rezoning would make every house a ‘mega-home’

Sunshine Village resident Gary Swartz argues against the proposed rezoning of the neighbourhood, warning of its potential consequences.

Lawn signs like this adorn many of the properties in Sunshine Village as residents fight construction of “mega-homes.”

Lawn signs like this adorn many of the properties in Sunshine Village as residents fight construction of “mega-homes.”

To the editor and residents of Delta:

I have a vision of the Delta Planning Department resplendent in felt beanies with large, round black plastic ears assembling at three o’clock every afternoon and singing, “M – I – C – K – E – Y – M …!” I know, it sounds goofy, but it isn’t daffy.

As reported in the cover story of the Jan. 5 edition of the Reporter, things are not particularly sunny and bright in Sunshine Village these days. Here’s the crux of the matter:

There is a proposal that basically says, “We don’t want mega-homes in Sunshine Village.” Cool! Most residents concur. Yet, there is a growing groundswell of opposition to the proposal. Why? Because the proposed solution is as bad, or actually much worse, than the perceived problem.

And when we most need their experience and professional input, the planning staff, mayor and council seem to be AWOL and parading through Fantasyland.

For example, they were asked to provide a definition of a mega-house, a simple, straight forward, unambiguous request. They either can’t, won’t or both. They are being a bit opaque.

All hyperbole aside, in what fantasy world do you impose a building code intended to prevent what one assumes is an impending apocalypse of mega-homes when you can’t even define or describe a mega-home?

What’s that old fable about a blind person describing an elephant by touch? I wonder where the planning department got their training?

But, to be fair, it’s not that they absolutely refuse to provide any kind of an answer. Instead, they point to the proposed standards (here’s where the fable comes in) and imply we should extrapolate from that. These are the proposed standards:

• no secondary suites

• maximum size of dwelling (including garage and basement) to be no larger than 4,000 sq. ft.

• maximum size of “above ground” dwelling (including garage with no basement) to be no larger than 3,000 sq. ft.

• maximum size of the dwelling footprint not to exceed 30 per cent of the entire lot area

• maximum height of the dwelling is to be no greater than 28 ft.

• minimum front yard setback of 25 ft.

• minimum rear yard setback of 35 ft.

• minimum side yard setback of 6 ft. (10 ft. on street side for corner lots)

• accessory building (i.e. shed) size to be no larger than 100 sq. ft., with a height no greater than 8 ft.

Presumably, anything that exceeds these parameters is a mega-home (or so one would reasonably extrapolate). Someone’s been drinking the Kool-Aid (or watching too much Leave It to Beaver) and can’t let go of the 70s. Or was that the 60s? Or 50s? Whenever it was that nuclear families lived in compact houses.

Regardless, out of 211 houses in the infected, err, impacted area, only 12 would conform to this new standard. Should it be necessary, due to a fire, an earthquake or simply because the current home had reached the point where it was not worth renovating (this is a growing phenomenon in the area), only these 12 houses could be replaced with an identical structure. That’s less than 6 per cent.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Reporter contacted the municipality but was not able to confirm before press time that only 12 Sunshine Village homes would meet the proposed standards.)

Remember those boxy little houses they built just after the Second World War? Think two-storey versions and that will give you an idea of what the rest will be replaced with.

Oh, and put your home on the market after the proposed standards are imposed, and by law you must tell prospective buyers, in writing, something along the lines of, “My home has a latent defect.” That’s sure to help close the sale. Can you say “Lowball?”

This is ludicrous. And if they are at all competent, the planning department has to have been aware of this.

But why should you care?

Well, if they can do it where I live, they can do it where you live, too. And they probably will. It doesn’t take a lot of thought or effort to implement something as poorly conceived as this, and you get to pat yourself on the back and say, “Job well done,” before you toddle off to Neverland and wear novelty hats.

So please join us in asking the mayor, council and planning staff a couple of simple questions:

First, is any home over 3,000 sq. ft. above ground including garage a mega-home? A simple yes or no will suffice.

Second, Delta is currently conducting a comprehensive review of zoning matters, presumably including the issue of mega-homes. As any home over 3,000 sq. ft. above ground (including garage) seems to be the municipality’s extrapolated definition of a mega-home, will the proposed standard to prevent the construction of mega-homes in Sunshine Village be imposed uniformly across Delta? Again, a simple yes or no will suffice.

If the answer to either of the above questions is no, then why are we letting the inmates run the asylum? Because we would have to be out of our minds to sit idly by while such draconian measures are being implemented. And, I repeat, if they can do it where I live, they can do it where you live, too.

The time to start defending your home-owner’s rights, as we are now defending ours, isn’t today. It was yesterday, because Delta won’t give you much time. A good first step would be a simple email to the mayor at mayor@delta.ca suggesting that less haste and a more rational approach is required to deal with an issue that has such far reaching consequences. It only takes a minute, and it could prove to be time well spent should you eventually sell your home under whatever zoning code the future may hold.

As for me, I have ordered a tinfoil hat from Amazon and am contemplating running for mayor in the next election. I won’t promise a lot, in fact I won’t promise anything, but I doubt I can make things any more Byzantine than they already are.

Yours truly,

Gary Swartz

Long-time resident of Sunshine Village