Thursday, February 4, 2010

1946 Scott Street condo

For edutainment, I went to the Committee of Adjustment hearing on this condo a few weeks back. The six storey condo is proposed for the corner of Scott at West Village Private (WVP). Also at the intersection is Lanark Avenue. Directly across the street is the Metropole condo, the tallest in the city.

The proponent wanted several variances. For example, reduced side yards and building the structure closer to the street. It turns out that the builder was being forced to ask for these by the City, because the zoning requires certain setbacks but the Community Design Plan (CDP) for the area calls for buildings along Scott from this site west to Churchill to be built close to the street, with a wide streetscaped sidewalk in front, the buildings are to abut each other tightly with no side yards, etc. to look like a traditional main street (eg West Wellington, Richmond Road in Westboro).

Opponents of the plan, who had a professional planner as one of their presenters, objected to various issues. Parking was a sore spot. Residents of the WVP didn't like that the builder was having less than one parking space per unit and felt there would be spill over parking into their street. Perfectly reasonable ... except the City forbids the proponent to provide the normal 100% parking because his condo is within x metres of a transitway station.

Other objections focussed on the ground floor commercial space, possibly a convenience store. Once again, the proponent was happy to make the building 100% residential but the City demanded commercial space on the ground floor to animate the street and sidewalks per their traditional mainstreet designation.

There were detailed objections to the condo based on close readings of the zoning bylaw and the city's infill guidelines. The condo proponent based their request for adjustments on the City's official plan that demands more intense infill and the CDP which specifies the lots along Scott are to be developed with a continuous row of six storey buildings with commercial at the sidewalk level.

I sympathized with the neighbours who might not want a six storey building overlooking their back yard, and saw traffic issues. Some of their other complaints struck me as trivial. They used the zoning laws as their tool of choice.

I sympathized with the condo proponent who is being told by the City that if he wants to build he has to violate those same zoning bylaws in favour of the CDP requirements for a traditional main street. I subsequently learned that the hierarchy of rules is
  •  Provincial planning directives,
  •  under that is the City Official Plan,
  • under that is the CDP,
  •  under that is the individual lot zoning.
  • The infill guidelines sort of float inbetween the zoning and CDP levels.

These various levels of plan frequently lead to contradictions when it comes to developing an individual site, eg the CDP demand for a continuous line of building frontages vs the zoning requirement for generous side yard setbacks. These contradictions seem to get resolved by the advice of the planning dept. as ratified by the Committee of Adjustment.

In this case the CofA heard all sides, and decided the contradictions between the zoning bylaw and CDP were so great that the zoning needs to be clarified/changed. The proponent can wait for that to happen (a process that will be subject to much lobbying...), or the proponent can appeal the decision to the OMB which often rules based on the higher level of planning document, eg the CDP.

to be continued in next post


  1. Other objections focussed on the ground floor commercial space

    What on earth is objectionable about that?

  2. People might come and go, creating an objectionable level of activity on the new wide tree lined sidewalks proposed for the south side of Scott? That people might go there in their car and cannot park directly in front of it because it is on a signalized corner? Quick, close all those stores on West Wellie and Richmond that are within 100' of a signalized intersection!

  3. I don't know how long it took me to come to the realization that people are nits, but BAM, there it is.

  4. WJM: I am not sure all poeple are nuts, you and I are not, although I sometimes wonder about one of us .... actually, what i was trying to convey in the two posts about the condo process is that (while there was some dross and silly comments) most comments were genuine, caring, valid viewpoints that were reasonable interpretations of their own reality but these conflicted with equally valid other vpoints which also had interesting and valid rationalizations. Genuine people in genuine conflict ... it wasn't nearly as hypocritical as say, the mallification of a grand victorian fairground aka improving an ugly parkinglot around a dilapidated stadium.