Measuring building heights (For Review)

Summary of proposed changes to the method of measuring building heights in single and two family zoned neighbourhoods

The report recommending changes was authorized by senior planner Barry Waitt from the Building Services Department, City Hall, New Westminster.

In response to the number of development variance permits issue to vary the heights of single and two family dwellings in the previous months, Council in January 2008 authorized staff to determine if there was a need to make amendments to the height requirement bylaw.

The ensuing review concluded that it was not necessary to make changes to the height bylaw itself but it became apparent that improvements could be made to the method of determining those heights to clarify the intent of the bylaw.

Specifically: - measuring the mean height of roofs
- determining where elevation levels of building sites are calculated
- clarification of grades used in determining heights

Measuring the mean height of a roof
The present method of using the height of the eaves to determine the mean height of a roof is subject to manipulation if the eaves are deliberately extended lower to the ground. Such manipulation can result in the main floor of a house being built higher from ground level than the bylaw intends

The recommendation is to measure from the top of the wall plate as this is much more difficult to manipulate to get around the bylaw.

Determining where elevation levels of building sites are calculated
The current bylaw allows elevations to be taken at the four corners of the lot to determine the average elevation. This average, considered to be in the centre of the lot, is where all building heights are measured from. If the lot has a considerable slope, and the front wall of the house is required to be closer to the front of the lot than the back, all the building heights at the front can be somewhat higher than the intent of the bylaw.

The recommendation is to require that all elevations be taken at the corners of the proposed building so there is a closer relationship between the corners of the building and its proposed height.

Clarification of grades used in determining heights
The intent of the bylaw has always been that heights should be determined from an "untouched" or natural grade as opposed to an artificial or "finished" grade. Ambiguous wording has, however, allowed builders to artificially raise heights of lots before taking elevations, resulting in buildings much taller than the intent of the bylaw to allow.

The recommendation is to insert the word "existing" before "elevation" to eliminate the artificial manipulation of lot grades.

Barry Waitt from Development Services has asked the West End Residents Association to comment on these proposals. He will attend our November 25, 2008 meeting to answer any of your questions and he may, at that time, ask us to endorse these proposed amendments.

—Elmer Rudolph, president, WERA
(Nov. 10, 2008)

No comments: