Changes to rules governing accessory and garden suites are expected to reduce the workload of the Cochrane Planning Commission (CPC) and the time it takes to process applications.

On Monday night (Feb. 10), town council left land-use bylaw amendments unscathed from what was presented at a Jan. 27 public hearing.

Secondary suites now come under the authority of town development officers, removing the CPC as the development authority.

This one change is anticipated to reduce the approval process to four weeks from six. It will also ease the workload of the CPC.

A 'street-scale' has been incorporated, replacing the 10 per cent neighbourhood limit. The new approach takes into account the cumulative impact of permitting a secondary suite in areas inundated with other home-based businesses. It also considers on-street parking congestion and existing utility services.

Tandem parking rules have also been clarified.

Secondary suites will continue to be a discretionary use in four residential zones. That means residents will retain the right to appeal a decision.

Garden suites, which are detached dwellings, would only be allowed on properties with a single-detached dwelling. Accessory suites can be located within single or semi-detached dwellings. 

Accessory and garden suites have become increasingly popular in Cochrane, council was told by Riley Welden, planning services manager. 

The town has issued 159 development permits for suites since 2005, 127 of them since 2008.

Drew Hyndman, senior manager of development services, told council there will be multiple opportunities to review the impact of the changes.

"As we move forward, we're happy to bring it forward to a strategic session for an update or a council workshop or include in the development summary. They'll be plenty of opportunities to review this in a year."

He believes the changes are positive and doesn't anticipate an influx of applications.

It's been 15 years since the bylaw was updated.