A proposal to convert crawl spaces into full basements in 88 proposed new North Delta homes is generating opposition from neighbouring residents who are worried the change will mean taller homes with room for illegal secondary suites. City hall has been flooded with letters and phone calls since the developers of the 107-acre Delsom Estates residential project applied to have the southernmost section of the housing project bordered by Nordel Way, 82 Avenue and 108 Street re-zoned to alter the low-ceilinged (1.95 metres or 6’4”) cellars into a full basement with a taller ceiling (2.44 metres or 8’). At the lower height, the cellars are considered crawl spaces that can be legally used for storage, furnaces and hot water tanks, but not for accommodation.
People who oppose the change say it will open the door to illegal secondary suites and the increased traffic and congestion that comes with them. They’re also worried that the higher ceilings will mean taller houses that will block views. Delta council has voted to send the matter to a public hearing on July 14. Community planning and development director Thomas Leathem told council at their June 22 meeting that the problem with the cellars as currently designed is that they are neither “fish nor fowl,” being taller than many crawl spaces but not tall enough to fall within the requirements of full basements. Delta Fire Chief Dan Copeland told council there is concern that the spaces may end up being used for accommodation, even though they don’t have enough headroom and even though (as a cellar) they only require one exit and don’t have to have smoke detectors. If the bylaw is approved, Leathem said the developer would dig the basements lower so that the houses would not be substantially taller. The exception would be some houses on sloped land, which would end up about 11 inches taller, Leathem said. He added secondary sites are specifically banned. The basements won’t be counted as part of the total square footage of each house, a number that decides the maximum allowable size of a home and can also determine how much a homeowner pays in taxes. At Coun. George Hawskworth’s urging, council has ordered staff to investigate how other municipalities deal with basement sizes. Mayor Lois Jackson called for a more detailed than usual mail-out notice of public hearing to better explain the issue to residents.