Proposed changes to residential zoning, Centre Plan Package B

Forgive the very long post, but homeowners and residents of District 7 need to be aware of the proposed changes to our zoning. I am excited by these proposals, and want to hear from you about your thoughts!  

The goal of the Centre Plan has always been to put development where it made sense, on busy corridors with good transit and which have sewer and water capacity and nearby parks, and to protect the character of our residential neighbourhoods while continuing to allow “gentle density”.

The Centre Plan draft in 2017 proposed 16% of the regional centres’ population growth taking place in established residential neighbourhoods and small apartments (higher order residential) on corridors. This can be achieved with the proposal below, with minimal impact on the feel of these neighbourhoods.  I have done my best to explain the proposed changes in what follows.

Gentle density is density that can occur without the kind of disruption we have seen some of the internal conversions overloaded with bedrooms and residents bring to our streets. It’s about smaller units in backyard and basement suites, but available to a broader range of properties, not just those with large lots.

I think that the proposal to standardize the approach in ER-1 and Er-2 with more modest multi-unit rights regardless of lot size makes a lot of sense. I described this to some residents not as an upzoning or downzoning but a “side zoning”. It is achieving the same intent as the current rules in a clearer to understand, and less impactful way.

Overall I am very impressed with the proposal for rezoning District 7’s established residential neighbourhoods. Both the R1 and R2 zones that we’ve had since the late 70s/early 80s are complicated and allow significant rights, often based on lot size or other considerations, and I think removing those makes sense. I see edits and concerns specifically around Young Avenue and a few minor changes to zoning here and there, but overall I am very pleased.  It is not perfect! I have a laundry list of things to tweak.  But it is I think very good.

So for those that want the details, here is my take on the changes. There is a map here you can use to follow along with what is proposed in your neighbourhood:

Proposed Zoning for District Seven. Light yellow is ER-1, grey-yellow is ER-3

Proposed Zoning for District Seven. Light yellow is ER-1, grey-yellow is ER-3, orange is HR.

Currently, R-1 has lot size minimums of 12.2 meters (40’) and 371 square meters (4000sf), and currently allows 1 unit buildings, or conversions of existing homes from before 1982 to up to 3 units 6-8 bedrooms with minimum unit sizes of 93 square meters (1000 square feet), and lot coverage of 35%., and allows either a backyard and basement suite, which counts toward total units in a conversion.

ER-1 is proposed to replace this (except on some streets where ER-3 is proposed, see below) with a minimum lot size 325 square meters (3500 square feet), with a minimum lot frontage of 10.7 meters (35 feet), and allows 1 unit, + backyard or basement suite, lot coverage 40%, with the following exceptions:

                             Lot Size          Frontage         Side Yard       Coverage

Young Ave Area         743 sm            24.4m              10% to 3m       35%
Grant Street Area        275 sm             n/a                   1.5m                35%
Armview Area            743 sm             n/a                   4.5m                n/a
Oakland Road Area    464 sm             15.2m              10% to 2m       n/a
Armview Area             743 sm             n/a                  4.5m                  n/a

The current R1-A zone is rolled into the ER-1 but it’s specific protections expand from around Regina Terrace to the whole of the Robie/South/Beaufort area, transformed into the Oakland Road Special Area, maintains front year, back yard, side yard rules (see above)

Proposed Oakland, Grant and Young Street special areas.

Currently R-2 requires frontages and lot size as small as of 9.1 meters (30 feet) and 3300sf for a single unit dwelling up to 18.2 meters (60 feet) of frontage and 6000sf for a 4 unit in Peninsula Centre (South to QuinpooL).

R-2 in Peninsula Centre currently a very permissive zone which currently allows wide range from 1 to up to 4 units in both new and converted buildings, but only on lots with higher width and size of the lot (for example 60’ frontage and 6000 sf for 4 units.) This zone also allows 2 unit conversions in any house unchanged since 1950.

R-2 is proposed to be replaced by the ER-2 zone (except on some main streets where ER-3 would apply, see below), and ER-2 would standardize the approach regardless of lot size and frontage. Minimum lot size rises to 325sm (3500sf), frontage to 10.7m/35’. It means lots must be slightly larger to allow single family homes (though undersize lots that already exist are grandfathered) and all lots could built a 1 or 2 unit or duplex + backyard or basement suite, lot coverage 40%.

The proposed ER3 zone is a more intensive residential zone, which has applied to many streets along busy roads with bus routes, where development has already been more intense. This zone requires a minimum lot size 325 square meters (3500 square feet), 10.7 meters (35 feet) of frontage, and allows a 1, 2, 3 unit or duplex, + backyard or basement suite, lot coverage 40%, sideyard 1.25 meters (4.1 feet), except 3 meters (9.8 feet) for townhouse block.

The current R2A zone which allows large boxy conversions out the back of old Victorians would no longer be used. The proposed Victoria Heritage Conservation Districts (HCD) will better control development on South Park and Tower Road, allowing staff, Council, and the public to be involved in what may and may not be allowed to occur. Much of this will be zoned ER1, some ER3. See more below on HCDs.

The current RC1 zone, which allows local commercial and enabled the unfortunate late-night pizza sold to 3am at Jubilee/Preston will no longer be used. Current commercial use will be grandfathered, new commercial use will be by a development agreement.

Young Avenue Special Area is problematic- the empty lots on Young Avenue are proposed to be allowed to do 50% lot coverage and other concessions (smaller lot, smaller side yards) to the developer who tore down the mansions on that street, and the proposed changes go against the zoning put in place to protect and enhance Young Ave in just a few years after we protected it.  Right now those empty lots have a subdivision for 14 or so 5000 square foot lots. I will be asking Council to remove all but the 4 unit provisions from the proposed zone and area when we debate the draft. This would let the developer build 4 or possibly 5 large homes with 4 units in them, that would look and feel like the rest of the large homes on the street (most of which are multi-unit buildings now).

EDIT – I stated that most of the large homes on the street are already multi-unit buildings.  A resident wrote me to clarify this is not the case.  While some of the older, historic homes do have apartments within them (i.e., these were allowed to enable the preservation of these stately homes), many of the other large homes do not have any apartments within them or in the backyards.  They counted the houses with and without apartments last night as they walked the dog, and found that only 20-25% of the houses on the street have apartments and less than 50% of the large homes (3000 sq ft) have apartments. In other words, MOST of the houses on the street are not multi-unit.  I apologize for the error.  Even if I think a decision is appropriate I want to make sure I am telling folks why and supporting it with actual evidence, not vague and incorrect generalities.

There are now seven proposed Heritage Conservation Districts for the District, starting with the Brunswick Street and Creighton’s Field HCDs in the North End, the Historic Properties/Capital District HCD for downtown, and the four residential areas of Oakland Road, Fort Massey, Victoria Road, and Young Avenue. Where an HCD is proposed the zoning that is put in place is “to the envelop” ie it broadly only allows folks to build buildings that are the same size as are already there. This makes development unlikely, but not impossible, while the HCD is being considered and approved.

Proposed Heritage Conservation Districts in District 7

Proposed Heritage Conservation Districts in District 7

Bedroom Counts in all zones, depending on uses allowed, would be:

(a)        single-unit dwelling use: 6 bedrooms per lot;
(b)        semi-detached dwelling use: 4 bedrooms per unit;
(c)        townhouse dwelling use: 4 bedrooms per unit;
(d)       two-unit dwelling use: 4 bedrooms per unit; and
(e)        three-unit dwelling use: 10 bedrooms per lot.

Secondary Suites (granny suites, backyard suites) are already allowed in all zones. For reference, a secondary suite use shall not exceed a floor area of 80.0 square meters (865 square feet) but the proposed rules would allow the conversion of an existing garage or accessory building to a backyard suite if it had been built prior to the adoption of this plan. Some old houses have large garages or more properly old stables that are ideal for conversion.

A secondary suite use is not be counted towards the dwelling unit total.

Changes also are happening at the interface between residential and commercial/mixed-use/industrial. Under the current rules, there is no law against putting a 30’ concrete wall on the property line of an R2 house where it backs onto a commercial zone (for example, between Quinpool and Pepperell). The proposal is where an ER zone ends and any other zone begins, there must both be a setback, or yard, between the property line and the start of a building, a landscape buffer (yard, bushes, hedges, trees), and the building if over 3 stories tall must terrace back again at the 3 story mark before going up. The proposed yard depth in all non-industrial zones is 4.5 metres (14.7 feet) and in industrial zones it is 10.0 metres (32.8 feet).

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