Saskatoon to change rules to allow garden suites this spring

By Charles Hamilton

C/O Saskatoon Star Phoenix

Crystal Bueckert hopes a cure for urban sprawl will be found in Saskatoons's backyards.

Bueckert, a local home designer, has been waiting for the city to allow garden and garage suites - and the wait could soon be over.

"It's a lot less expensive to use what we have than to go out into a field and create the roads, the sewers, the infrastructure," Bueckert said.

After years of debate, city officials are preparing to move ahead with sweeping regulatory changes that could transform existing neighbourhoods. The changes will be up for debate by council's planning and operations committee next week.

A garden suite is a small, detached home located in the rear or side yard of an existing house. Garage suites are the same, but typically constructed above a detached garage.

Bueckert was part of the committee that helped come up with the guidelines. She says the homes are both an economical and environmentally sustainable option for a city that is bursting at the edges. People can build a secondary suite - which can be used as a rental property - without the inconvenience of an attached suite. Building them in backyards increases residential density without changing the face of the neighbourhood.

"There are no sound issues; there is not someone living in your house, but they are on your property," she said.

Local developer Curtis Olson will work with Bueckert's company, BLDG Studio, to start building garden and garage suites. He said he's excited the city is finally changing its rules.

"We are intending to start building garage homes as soon as the bylaw allows," Olson said.

Allowing garden and garage suites is only one component of sweeping plans to regulate the way new homes are built in old neighbourhoods.

Alan Wallace, the city's director of planning and development, said the city wants to encourage people to build new homes in old neighbourhoods, without hurting existing homeowners.

"I think some of the cookie-cutter designs have to be rethought. It's about character, and maintaining character," Wallace said.

The proposed guidelines include height restrictions and setbacks that will hopefully stop people from tearing down small homes and putting "monster homes" in their place, he said.

The changes to allow garden suites will be the first of many to come.

The suites will only be allowed on lots with singleunit dwellings, and will be restricted to two bedrooms, with height and size limits.

If the new guidelines are approved by city council, interested homeowners will need the city's approval to build garden or garage suites. Wallace said the city will judge each project on a case-by-case basis. He hopes to have the guidelines in place before the 2014 construction season.

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