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Report says Guelph has lots of potential for 'gentle density'

New draft rules aimed at permitting four-unit properties in low-density residential areas without the need for special permission
Changes are proposed to city zoning rules, allowing four-unit properties without special permission in low-density areas.

A “gentle density” boom may be headed for Guelph, following the release of draft rules aimed at permitting four-unit properties in low-density residential areas without the need for special permission.

If ultimately approved, the revised zoning rules would allow for a primary residence and three additional dwellings on a single property. Unless an exception is granted, the current cap is two accessory units.

“Gentle density is an approach to urban development that focuses on slightly increasing the number and variety of homes in neighbourhoods that typically accommodate only low-density, single-detached homes,” explains a staff report to council. “It is development that is not meant to be imposing but rather, the ultimate sign of successful gentle density is that it is gentle enough that one hardly notices.”

At the moment, Guelph has about 32,000 low-density residential lots which provide roughly 36,000 housing units, the report states. Of those lots, about 27,000 include only one unit.

“These numbers highlight the potential for gentle density within the city,” the report notes.

Under the draft bylaw, there are to be no more than two detached, accessory units per property; no limit is set on the quantity of bedrooms; connection between the primary unit and accessory units within the same building would no longer be required, though outdoor staircases would be banned in front and exterior side yards; and fourplex buildings would require three parking spaces, while four would be needed in the case of separate buildings.

Also, accessory units are to be smaller in size than the primary residence.

Guelph residents can provide feedback on the plan during a public meeting set for April 9, to be held during council’s monthly planning session. That meeting is scheduled to start at 10 a.m.

Council is expected to make a decision on the draft recommendation in June, with efforts set to launch this fall regarding consideration of five-unit permissions without special permission being required.

As noted in a staff presentation slated for the public meeting, the draft bylaw regulations include no change to minimum lot size and frontage restrictions, landscaped open spaces, minimum setbacks, height restrictions or driveway widths.

Anyone interested in submitting written comments for council’s consideration or signing up to address council direction during the public meeting should do so by 10 a.m. on April 5. However, public meeting speakers aren’t required to register in advance.


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