New City Secondary Suites Proposal

Allows more to be built and allows them to be larger

Here are the facts

A Secondary Suit is a suite on any level of a home
A Backyard Suite can be a separate building such as a Garden home with a basement or a suite built over a garage.

The Current land use rules for the R-C1 and R-C2 properties in Wildwood are:

  • R-C1 allows one dwelling unit on each lot, no suites.
  • R-C1s allows a Secondary Suit without a Development Permit or a Backyard Suite with a Development Permit. Land use re-designations from R-C1 to R-C1s require Council approval. To increase higher density levels across the city, the process has been made very simple, normal Application Fees have been waived until January 2017 and the approval rate is above 85%.
  • R-C2 allows 50ft lots to be subdivided into two lots for a single dwelling unit on each lot, no suites.

In June 2015, the City proposed to change the R-C1 and R-C2 land uses to allow Secondary and Backyard suites on all R-C1 lots and all subdivided R-C2 lots in only Wards 7, 8, 9 and 11. This proposal was rejected by Council vote.

On May 2, 2016, Council will hold a public hearing to consider a New Secondary Suite Proposal – Bylaw 23P2016.

This time, the R-C1 land use remains unchanged but two rule changes affect the number and size of Secondary and Backyard suites for R-C1s and R-C2 properties.

With the ease of land use re-designations from R-C1 to R-C1s, these rule changes create a significant potential change for every property in Wildwood.

The two significant changes are:

  1. Reduce the minimum parcel width requirement to 7.5 metres (25ft) for Secondary and Backyard suites in any district, even when all of the required parking stalls are provided on site.
    This changes the potential development of our 50 ft wide R-C2 lots to 4 dwelling units from 2. The actual density impact, since few of them have been subdivided, could be three fold.
  2. Increase the maximum floor area of a Secondary suite, from 70 square metres (753 sq ft) to 100 square metres (1,075 sq ft) and Backyard suite size from 75 square metres (807 sq ft) to 100 square metres (1,075 sq ft).
    This change is limited to R-C1s properties but with the City promoting re-designation applications, all R-C1 properties are potentially affected. For many properties in Wildwood the allowed Secondary suite or Garden suite main floor could be larger than some of our original home main floors. Garden suites would also be able to have a full basement. For over the garage suites, 1075 sq ft is larger than a triple car garage. Essentially, properties re-designated to R-C1s have the potential to become “duplexes” by the addition of a second residence up to 1075 sq ft, not counting the basement.

In comparison, Edmonton garage suites have a maximum of 60 sq m and only allowed to be 6.5 m in height. Their minimum width for Backyard suites is 15 m and ALL Secondary suites require a minimum of 3 on-site parking stalls. Secondary suites below grade can be as large as the main floor of the house, but only 40% of the main dwelling up to 70 sq m if above grade.

These Backyard suite pictures are from Avenue Magazine.

Backyard Suite 1

Backyard Suite 2

This is the letter submitted by Wildwood Community Association:

Wildwood Community Association
4411 Spruce Drive S.W.
Calgary AB T3C 3B1

April 20, 2016

Worship Mayor Nenshi and Members of Calgary City Council
City of Calgary
700 Macleod Trail S.E.
Calgary, Alberta T2G 2M3

Dear Mayor Nenshi and City Councillors:

Re: Secondary/Backyard Suite – Land Use Bylaw Amendments 23P2016 (CPC M-2016-004)

The Wildwood Community Association Board of Directors has considered the proposed Land Use Bylaw Amendments that will enable more and larger Secondary and Backyard suites in our Community. Consistent with the Association’s representation of its member’s views on suite Bylaw Amendments in 2015, we want to clearly state our opposition to these proposed Bylaw Amendments.

The fact is, these Amendments enable a:

  • doubling of population density,
  • significant increase in building intensity,
  • significant increase in the proportion of rental properties, and
  • significant increase in roadway congestion and laneway traffic,

Residents are telling us that these outcomes are not in the best interests of our community.

As Community representatives, it is disconcerting that after all of the volunteer time and effort to gather and express the views of residents in last year’s debate, the City returns with proposals that are even more detrimental. Then to have limited consultation and misinformation to residents suggesting these Amendments will not affect R-C1 properties, is even more offensive.

Wildwood is not a community in decline.
Wildwood is a safe, demographically stable and sustainable community.
Wildwood is a vibrant place for families to grow in a low density environment.
Wildwood is the type of community that is contemplated in Municipal Development Plan section 2.2.1 where adjacent higher intensity areas are created to “make redevelopment more predictable for existing communities by lessening the impact on stable, low-density areas.”

Reducing the minimum parcel width requirement to 7.5 metres:
From current rules, this change will add two residences and at least four cars to every 50ft R-C2 property.

Increasing the maximum floor area of a secondary/backyard suite to 100 square metres: From the current sizes of 70 and 75 square metres respectively, this will enable the addition of a second dwelling (1,075 sq ft.) that is larger than many of the existing dwellings. Whether the added suite is a duplex scenario, a huge garden suite with a basement or a huge over the garage suite, the scale of these second dwellings will no longer be secondary to the main residence. This scale of development is purely a development opportunity that is significantly out of context, will not be cost effective enough to produce any accommodations that would be “affordable” and will likely create an environment for more illegal suites if the property is already zoned to allow for a secondary suite.

It is understood that R-C1 properties would still be required to secure re-designation to R-C1s; however, the 85% approval rate provides little comfort to neighbours. We also understand that backyard suites will remain discretionary. The re-designation application requirements currently do not include identification of the type of suite to be applied for in the subsequent Development Permit application. From a planning perspective these processes are somewhat exclusive but in a practical sense, neighbours are asked to comment on a re-designation with an undefined purpose. Both the land use re-designation and Development Permit processes are viewed as favouring the desires of the Applicant and place too much onus on neighbours to defend their right to enjoyment of their own property.

We respectfully request that Council:

  • Defer approval of these Amendments to accommodate more Public engagement.

Our suggestions for debate in that engagement would include:

  • Reject the change in maximum size for Backyard suites.
  • Allow the maximum size of a below-grade suite to equal the main floor of the house.
  • Reject the reduction of the minimum lot width for suites to 7.5 meters.
  • Require R-C1s Land Use Re-designation Applications to identifying the type of suite.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Robyn Birdsell
Wildwood Community Association

Your Community Association wants to know your opinion on the proposed changes and encourages you to express your opinion to Council by email by APRIL 30.

Email to:;;
Subject: Land Use Bylaw Amendments 23P2016 (CPC M-2016-004)

Or provide you comments in person at the Public Hearing May 2, (5 minutes max)

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