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  • Writer's pictureRiley Gettens

Carriage Houses and Secondary Suites - a further explanation.

Below is an update from RDOS Planning Manager, Chris Garrish. If you have any further questions for Chris, please email him at

January 9th, the Regional District Board approved 1st & 2nd reading of a bylaw that is proposing to allow for “accessory dwellings” (i.e. carriage houses) in the Small Holdings and Residential zones.  Allowing “accessory dwellings” in these zones is seen to provide a number of community benefits such as diversify housing stock and add housing choice; creating a more liveable alternative to basement suites; and expanding rental housing options for young people, seniors and families while generating rental income for homeowners.

The ability to construct an “accessory dwelling” on a property will, however, be subject to a number of requirements, including that parcels less than 1.0 ha (2.47 acres) in area be connected to a community sewer system. 

This 1.0 ha requirement for “accessory dwellings” is a funding condition that the Regional District must meet when seeking grants from the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) for sewer infrastructure projects and is intended address “water pollution coming from developments with small lots, and failing or over-capacity septic systems.”  These grants have previously been an important source of funding for the Regional District and have assisted with the construction of the Northwest Osoyoos Sewer Extension, Okanagan Falls Sewer Treatment Plan and, in future, a potential extension of sewer services to Kaleden.

In the absence of a community sewer system, “accessory dwellings” will be prohibited on parcels less than 1.0 ha in area, which has obvious implications for properties in the Greater West Bench area, as these are generally less than 1.0 ha in area and are currently served by septic systems.

Another challenge to allowing “accessory dwellings” in the Greater West Bench are the long-standing geo-technical hazard conditions that exist in the area.  Previous hazard assessments of the West Bench have recommended limiting the number dwellings (e.g. secondary suites, carriage houses and subdivisions) until such time as these hazard conditions can be adequately addressed.  Limiting density in the West Bench has, therefore, been a long-standing policy of the Regional District Board and, for this reason, the pending zoning amendments related to “accessory dwellings” will not result in these (or secondary suites) being allowed in the Greater West Bench.

While the Regional District has recently initiated a review of geotechnical conditions in the Greater West Bench area in order to more accurately define existing hazardous areas using up-to-date data and modern technology as well as to determine appropriate land use controls, it is unknown if an outcome of this review will be a recommendation in favour of allowing accessory dwellings and secondary suites.  Stay tuned …

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