The new proposed master plan bylaws could mean the end of large Chelsea houses, but it could also mean no more multi-generational homes.
The draft master plan update, unanimously approved by Chelsea council in March, contains a 300-square-metre limit on livable space in new single-family homes. Walk-out basements are counted but garages aren’t.
This limit is intended to reduce the footprint of houses to protect the environment, according to the master plan, but it doesn’t sit well with some who are trying to build their dream homes.
Last year David Macarios bought two neighbouring parcels in the Chelsea Highlands development area of Larrimac. He said that he and his wife, Sue, looked forward to moving back to Canada from the U.S. to live closer to their extended family, which has been in Chelsea for decades. They started working on their plans for one home in which to finish raising their four children. The home would be built on two lots to minimize the impact on nature: one home, septic system, driveway, and well, instead of two of each.
Chelsea council approved their request to combine their two lots in November. They hired a LEED-certified architect who specialized in building passive houses and sustainable development. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, basically a higher standard for environmentally friendly buildings.
Despite Macarios’ plan to build an environmentally responsible home, the proposed 300-square-metre limit wouldn’t allow it.
“For the sake of clarity, it is not unreasonable to build a 420-square-metre home, where two homes would have been built based on this bylaw. Specifically, this bylaw would permit two homes, each 300 square metres, each requiring their own driveway, well, septic, and construction clearing,” he wrote in an email to the municipality, which he also forwarded to the Low Down.
Macarios said it’s ridiculous that he’s allowed to build two 300-square-metre homes, but not one, which would have a much smaller footprint than the two allowed homes.
“We’re thinking, ‘Screw it. Sell the property and move to La Pêche,’” he told the Low Down.
Macarios isn’t alone.
Other Chelsea Highlands hopefuls Drew Henry and Sandra Salmi bought a lot to build a multi-generational home they can share with their son and his family, which includes their three young grandchildren. They’ve been planning and designing the home for almost two years and they said they hope the municipality will reconsider.
For reference, the playing surface of each of Larrimac’s tennis courts are just over 260 square metres.
When asked why this limit was added to the master plan update, Chelsea Mayor Pierre Guénard told the Low Down that it was in response to Chelsea residents asking for the update to focus on environmental protections and sustainable development. Small homes mean less trees cut and materials used during the construction and require less electricity to run.
“Larger homes have a larger impact on the ecosystem,” he said.
Guénard added that the limit and the master plan bylaws are still in the draft phase and can be changed based on feedback from residents.
“We want to listen to our residents,” he said.
Guénard said that the municipality has received comments about the limit from residents and that “We are taking them into account and there are modifications that can be proposed.”
There are still two public consultations on the master plan scheduled in Old Chelsea for mid-June. At these consultations, people can learn more about the master plan and give feedback in person.
Residents are also invited to share their opinions, comments and suggestions with the municipality by phone, 819-827-6212, and email, email@example.com.