Accessory apartments a possibility for rural Guelph-Eramosa properties

Guelph-Eramosa residences may all be made equal, at least with regards to the ability of homeowners to add an accessory apartment to their house.

Currently township zoning bylaws allow for accessory apartments in Rockwood, Eden Mills and along highway commercial zones. However, in the other nine zones accessory apartments are not permitted, including in rural residential and agricultural areas.

An accessory apartment is a subordinate living space that has to be attached to the main house on the property, explained planning associate Kelsey Lang at the April 7 Guelph-Eramosa council meeting.

Lang presented a completed application for a zoning bylaw amendment at the meeting that would allow almost anyone in the township to have an apartment attached to his or her home.

“This basically makes all residential the same,” councillor Corey Woods said. “It doesn’t matter where you are.”

However, along with the amendment, Lang proposed a set of regulations to give the township more control over the placement and locations of the accessory apartments.

“Our motivations of bringing forward this township-initiated application is first of all tenant safety,” Lang explained. “We also want to be more accommodating of changing family structures, aging parents and affordable housing.”

She said the township sees no issue with allowing these apartments to be built in the additional zones.  

“We would see no servicing impact and it would support this extra flexibility for our rural residents,” she said. “Any accessory apartments would also have to comply with the zone set backs and other zone regulations.”

Currently there are few guidelines pertaining to accessory apartments apart from prohibiting dwelling units that are below grade, regulations around the highway commercial zone and the Ontario Building Code, Lang explained.

In this new report, the proposed regulations for accessory apartments mean they could be added anywhere within the existing house or the homeowner could build an addition to the side or the back of the house. The maximum floor area of the apartment could be up to 45 per cent of the house’s floor area, not exceeding 150m², or it could take up the entire basement.

For commercial use properties, the proposed guidelines would permit the accessory apartment to be above or behind the main building. The maximum floor area for the apartment cannot exceed 45% of the building’s floor area or 150m². It could be the entire top floor of the building.

Other requirements for both residential and commercial use properties would include a limit of one accessory apartment per lot (garden suites not included), use of the same lot access as the main structure, one parking spot for the unit and a fully-serviced unit.     

Mayor Chris White voiced concerns that allowing both an accessory apartment and a garden suite on a property would encourage residents to have both.

Lang said the two dwellings serve different purposes. The garden suite is temporary and can be detached from the home providing the residents additional privacy, whereas the accessory apartment must be attached to the home. She said council would assess each application for a garden suite on a case-by-case basis.

“It’s not a back door to end up having two apartments in the same place,” White said. “So the garden suite application will still have to meet all the rigorous garden suite stuff and still be temporary.”    

Council accepted the planning report as complete and there will be a public meeting held to discuss the zoning bylaw amendment for accessory apartments and proposed regulations.