UPDATE: As an outcome of Council meetings held on July 17th and August 13th, 2019, the County’s zoning by-law was revised to eliminate any reference to a maximum size for second units.
Based on a surprise decision at the April 18th, 2018 Public Planning meeting, it looks like the County will now allow larger second units. This precedent-setting decision increased the maximum size to 65% of the main dwelling. This will be of interest to any County home owner considering a second unit.
Some background will help to understand the decision and its implications. In 2011, the provincial government passed the Strong Communities Through Affordable Housing Act which promoted garden suites and second units as a way to increase the affordable housing supply.
Prince Edward County Council followed suit in 2016 and amended the local zoning by-law to allow second units. They were allowed anywhere in the County where a residence was allowed. Such second units could be located the main residence (like a basement apartment) or a separate building. Council set the maximum size at 650 square feet .
New Size Precedent
Despite the limit on maximum size in the zoning by-law, last week’s Public Planning meeting approved an application for a 3,100 square foot second unit to adjoin a 5,000 square foot main house.
In supporting the application, municipal staff argued that the original goal of the legislation was not limited to affordable housing. In addition, they argued that the legislation also included other goals such as increasing income for
owners and adding to the province’s housing stock.
Planning also said that the province was not in favour of a maximum size for a second unit. As a result, they should be judged in proportion to the main house, other buildings in the neighborhood and the impact on neighboring properties.
Staff argued that as a rule of thumb, second units could be as large as 60-65% of the size of the main dwelling.
The fact that the County will now allow larger second units is important for anyone considering adding extra space.
It’s an opportunity to create “family compounds” like those which have been popular in the traditional cottage country.
In addition, the rental income from larger second units will also be higher.
Anyone considering a second unit would be wise to consult with planning for guidance ahead of time.