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Potential limit on driveway widths the hot topic at council

City reviewing current comprehensive zoning bylaw that was approved in 1995
20210301 Guelph Bylaw Enforcement vehicle RV
Guelph bylaw enforcement vehicle. Richard Vivian/GuelphToday

Parking issues drove the conversation during Monday’s council meeting, which saw city staff present the first comprehensive zoning bylaw revisions in 26 years, covering a wide variety of building types, uses and more.

If ultimately approved, the draft bylaw would decrease the number of parking spaces needed for new apartment buildings and commercial areas, especially in identified intensification zones, as well as restrict residential driveway widths to limit side-by-side parking.

“I think there is some middle ground here,” Mayor Cam Guthrie said of parking concerns. “I want us to balance things as good as we can.”

The comprehensive zoning bylaw dictates land uses, such as residential and industrial, as well as limits on things such as building height, parking, setbacks and open space requirements, among others.

Most controversial of the potential changes during Monday’s meeting was a recommendation that residential driveway widths be capped at half that of the lot or sizes that depend on the dwelling type, whichever is less. 

For single detached homes, it would be 6.5 metres. In the case of semi-detached homes, it’s five metres. And for townhouses, the driveway width is capped at 3.5 metres.

Five metres is generally considered the width needed for two vehicles side by side.

Driveway width and parking ratios were the most commonly raised issues during previous public consultations, noted Abby Watts, project manager for the review, with people split between wanting more or less.

“All feedback is not created equal,” stated Coun. Mark MacKinnon, explaining some comes from multi-generational families that require more parking in order to remain in housing they can afford, while other comments come from people who want more grass in front of the house across the street. “I think it’s important to weigh the importancy.”

He offered a counter-argument to every argument he said he’s heard – there won’t be space for trees (put trees in rear yards), added width will create more water runoff (side pavers are allowed now).

“The only thing it comes down to is four words, ‘I don’t like it,’” MacKinnon noted. “Aesthetics does not trump affordability, does not trump supporting our families.”

While several council members expressed support for MacKinnon’s concerns, the issue was far from unanimous.

“Everyone has a voice and those voices are all valid,” countered Coun. Leanne Caron, who is concerned about the issue dividing the community.

Caron pointed to a “demographic shift” on the horizon as young adults opt not to own vehicles, even electric ones. As a result, fewer parking spaces will be needed in the years to come, she suggested.

“We’ve learned a lot about car-centric design and it’s not all about aesthetics,” Caron said.

The affordability issue can be addressed through the use of stacked parking – one vehicle in front of another – contributed Coun. Cathy Downer.

It would be premature to put parking reductions in place before the city creates better active transportation and transit systems, Coun. Rodrigo Goller chimed in.

Since parking wouldn’t be allowed on driveway pavers under the draft bylaw, that could put tens of thousands of residents into violation, added Coun. Dominique O’Rourke. She also worries parking reductions could cause more people to park on the street, especially around apartment buildings, impacting neighbouring residents.

Coun. Mike Salisbury called for “middle ground” in the driveway width discussion, suggesting council pluck the “low-hanging fruit” of allowing people to park on driveway siders so they can fit two vehicles into their driveway.

Council isn’t expected to consider the draft bylaw for approval until next year, following additional public consultations and a statutory public meeting. 

In addition, a series of online open houses and workshops discussing aspects of the draft bylaw are available now through next month at www.haveyoursay.guelph.ca/czbr.

A project post card has been mailed to all property owners within the city to bring the draft bylaw to their attention.

The complete draft comprehensive zoning bylaw can be found here.

Council approved development of a new comprehensive zoning bylaw in January of 2019. The last one was approved in 1995.

While the draft isn’t fully interactive, the final product will be, Watts told council. That includes a series of active links to help people find what they need, as well as map overlays for things such as flood plains. 

It also includes illustrations to accompany the text, though Watts noted the illustrations are not formally part of the bylaw.

“This is the best document I’ve ever seen,” commented Guthrie, echoing many of his council colleagues. “If I can understand it, I’m sure a lot of other people can understand it.”