Montrose Council hears concerns over modular homes

Strong public opposition to a variance application filled the room at Monday night's regular council meeting in Montrose.

Strong public opposition to a variance application filled the room at Monday night’s regular council meeting in Montrose.

The crux of the issue was an application for a variance permit to Lot 26 in Viewmont Subdivision, a neighbourhood in Montrose.

Current residents of the area were strongly against the application which requested council permission to place a modular home on the lot.

Mark Thatcher, a resident of Viewmont, spoke at the meeting and said the modular home plan violated the building scheme restrictions placed on the neighbourhood by original developer Dick Dar of Fruitvale.

“When I first moved to the subdivision, I was told this would be a high-end subdivision and that there would be a schedule of restrictions and everyone had to follow them,” he said, adding that a real estate agent had told him a modular home in the neighbourhood would lower his property value.

After doing some digging on his own, Thatcher shared with the crowd of about 20 people that he had discovered the building scheme restrictions had been removed without consultation from four of the empty lots in the subdivision, including Lot 26.

As it turns out, there is a clause in the agreement that gives the original landowner and developer, Dar, the right to remove the restrictions, which he did.

Montrose’s Official Community Plan (OCP) and zoning bylaws also prohibits the placement of modular homes in village limits.

The community plan states that, “To preserve the character and aesthetics of existing residential neighbourhoods, new single-wide manufactured homes generally will not be permitted in Montrose. Council will, however, consider the siting of double-wide modular homes when it can be demonstrated that the appearance and design of the building will be compatible with surrounding convention.”

In another part of the plan, it says that the guidelines were put in place, “to ensure that multiple unit housing is developed in a manner that is compatible with the existing scale and character of the community.”

Peter Bayley, another resident of Viewmont, argued that even though the modular home wasn’t a single-wide structure, it still wouldn’t fit in with the aesthetics of the neighbourhood.

“We went online and took a look at what this building might look like, and in no way, shape, or form does it conform with what is there already,” he said. “If you take a look at my house and take a look up the street, all around, there is no way that it conforms. We are submitting a letter and we strongly oppose this.”

Another part of Dar’s application detailed a request to offset the home by six-and-a-half feet in the lot, something that has previously been denied by council when Bayley’s family went to build their home in Viewmont.

To respond to concerns about the modular home and its appearance, Wayne Postnikoff appeared on behalf of Eagle Home Sales in Castlegar – the company that would be selling the proposed structure.

“I think a lot of people have a misconception as to what modular or manufactured homes are,” he said.

“All of our homes that are modularly built, they have to follow the B.C. building code. We don’t sell trailers. We sell homes that have the same specs as any home built here in the Kootenays. The only difference is that we are bringing them in from a factory already 90 per cent finished. “

Postnikoff’s reassurances didn’t alleviate Viewmont residents’ concerns.

The question was posed to council about whether they should approve the variance.

Montrose Mayor Joe Danchuk pointed out that council has allowed modular homes in the village before, but those decisions had received little to no opposition.

Coun. Rory Steep didn’t see an issue with the modular home itself, but didn’t agree with the six-and-a-half foot variance included in the permit application.

Coun. Mary Gay mentioned that she had gone to see the houses and they weren’t as bad as people might think.

“I thought I would go to Castlegar and take a look and see what the homes look like and they are beautiful,” she said. “I want to encourage everyone here to go out and take a look at the houses. What you see in a picture and what you see in real life is different.”

Gay still voted ‘Yes’ when Coun. Cindy Cook put forth a motion to deny the application for a permit variance. The motion passed by a vote of 4-1.

The next Montrose Council meeting is on April 7 at 7 p.m.