Ottawa family worries about coach house on neighbouring property
OTTAWA -- They are tiny houses aimed at easing Ottawa's affordable housing crunch.
But Ottawa's new coach house bylaw is causing big problems for one local family who believes there is too much leeway in the application of the bylaw.
The coach house is going up on a large property along River Road in Ottawa's rural sound end, meters away from an older existing home.
It was the beauty of the river and the tranquility of the area that drew Wendy Daniels and her family to the south part of Ottawa along the Rideau River in 2001. They bought an older home on a large rural lot with lots of breathing space in between neighbours.
That is until about a year ago, when she received notification from the city of Ottawa, along with a large map, explaining the neighbor was going to erect a coach house on his property.
Today, just a few feet over from Daniel's bathroom window, a massive hole hints at what will soon be built there.
“This is my view from my bathtub,” she says, “Isn't that lovely? And soon it will be a big stone wall.”
Daniels initially loved the idea of a coach house and supported the concept when Ottawa first introduced it in 2016.
“Wow coach houses,” she says, “I love the concept of coach houses.”
Ottawa is a leader in this area, allowing homeowners to build a much smaller house on their property to help with the housing crunch. Coach houses must be designed and located to minimize the impact on neighbouring properties. It is intended “to be a discreet way to achieve affordable housing and increased density in existing neighbourhoods,” the city’s document says. There are a variety of rules as to how large the coach house can be and how large the original rural property must be to accommodate a coach house.
“Coach houses must be designed and located to minimize impacts on neighbouring properties with regards to privacy, shadowing and overlook,” the city’s document “How to Plan Your Coach House in Ottawa” states, “Coach houses are meant to be a gentle form of intensification.”
Daniels says her neighbour's plan, however, is anything but gentle. She points to the map the city provided which indicates her house and the neighbour’s existing house on a very large lot with the proposed coach house meters away from her home.
“It’s pretty much on the property line,” she says.
“I thought I was safe here because the house next door is on huge lot and you are only allowed to have one home on it,” Daniels says, “and when you look at a map as huge as the one I have here and see where he chose to locate that coach house, it couldn't be ruder.”
Contacted by phone, the owner refused to comment. The councillor for the area and an architect of the coach house bylaw says he sympathizes with Daniels but the problem is that her house is too close to her property line.
“The problem in this situation is that the existing house is too close to the property line,” says councillor George Darouze. “Obviously that’s not her fault. She wasn’t aware of where the property line was when she bought the house. But we looked at every possible scenario. You never think there is a house built close to the property line and a neighbour will build right next to you.”
Darouze adds that the owner of the coach house property is meeting the zoning bylaw and that there are no rules to tell him where to put a building on his property.
Daniels is still hoping for an injunction to stop the build. In the meantime, she is warning other homeowners.
“Everyone is vulnerable to this happening to them,” she says, “as well as me.”
Thecity says at this point, it has no plans to review its bylaw and believes it's working well. So far, 31 building permits have been issued for coach houses here since thebylaw came into effect 3 years ago.