There was a time when garages were used for parking a vehicle or two, and perhaps to store a few belongings.
Times have changed, observed Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling following this week’s meeting of the city’s municipal planning commission.
The commission had just dealt with an application for the development of an oversized detached garage in Anders. The applicant had sought approval for a 5.67-metre-high building but scaled his plans back to 5.18 metres — still well in excess of the 4.5 metres allowed under Red Deer’s land-use bylaw.
The upper floor of the two-storey building was to be used as a games room.
Commission members approved the application, persuaded by the fact that the building would not look out of place in the neighbourhood and would not adversely affect nearby homeowners. Still, they spent considerable time pondering the phenomenon of large accessory buildings and whether the land-use bylaw should more precisely define what is and isn’t allowed.
It was decided that such matters are best dealt with on an application-by-application basis, with factors like lot size, consistency with the related home’s appearance, impact on neighbours and other considerations taken into account.
“I think it’s going to be difficult to do anything but take each case one at a time and to try to not upset a neighbourhood,” Flewwelling said later.
“Really, you can’t get much more definitive without being really restrictive.”
The movement toward big garages is a departure from the situation years ago, when even two-car garages weren’t common, he noted.
“It’s almost as if people need an acreage to accommodate the boat and the motorhome and the motorbikes and the ATVs and the cars and the half-ton.”
In some cases, added Flewwelling, garages are being designed so that vehicles can be hoisted up and others can be parked beneath them. Or the upper floors are developed as living space, as was the case with the Anders project.
Tony Lindhout, the assistant city planning manager, said Parkland Community Planning Services conducted a survey of other municipalities a few years ago to find out their limits on garage heights and sizes. Red Deer’s restrictions were found to be in the “middle of the pack,” which led to a recommendation that the municipal planning commission continue to deal with applications as they arise.
That said, some developments are prohibited, said Lindhout.
“For instance, a secondary suite, which is a living accommodation, clearly our bylaw does not allow that, and we’re not proposing to open that up.”
He acknowledged that the distinction can be blurry, with bonus rooms built into garages with running water and bathroom facilities.