Friday, February 5, 2010

1946 Scott Street condo and house prices

This boutique-scale condo is proposed for the corner of Scott and West Village Private.  Yesterday's post dealt with the conflicting planning documents, and how each party relies on the document (level) that best suits their arguments.

I was surprised at the hearing how often the proponent was asked extremely detailed questions about the building. Would the side bedroom windows of the condo have a view across park and then obliquely across the street into the second and third floor windows of the houses on WVP?

Did the proponent have a detailed traffic plan from a consultant showing the impact of his 26 parking spaces on the traffic flow of Scott Street and turn volumes onto Lanark?

Was the west wall of the building concrete or steel stud, given its proximity to the Hydro station next door (which was a whole 'nother story of last minute objections made by Hydro, some of which struck me as ludicrous).

Was the exterior brick colour of the building really as bright orange as shown on the magic-marker coloured drawings? Where was the landscape consultant's report on how to construct foundations to avoid root damage to an on-site oak tree that was to be saved?

The proponent, I discovered, had been to the CofA once before. His architect had drawn detailed constructable floor plans for the building. The plans were then redone, with new suite layouts, new structural calculations, new drawings, more negotiations with the City, and brought back to CofA. The new plans made the building thinner, filled it out closer to the lot lines at the request of the City, etc.

I couldn't help but think how much all these steps cost. And opponents of this project or other projects make the most of picking flaws, requiring more expensive studies when common sense indicates some of the objections are on pretty thin ground. Who pays for all this? The developer of course, but these costs get passed on to the home buyers. You know, the young couple looking for their first step onto the housing escalator by buying a small condo right on the transitway that pops them into work. Or the elderly widow selling her bigger hard-to-maintain older home to get a no-maintenance apartment.

I have no idea what the amount is, but it has to be significant wastage of money to constantly redo detailed plans to meet various objections, to hire endless consultants, to hire a planning presenter at the CofA, the city staff time ... all for issues such as height and setbacks that in my view should have been settled well before the proponent starts to plan his project. Of course, the putative builder cannot meet all the rules because there are so many of them, and they conflict with each other!

This isn't the first case I have seen at CofA. Last year I saw a developer who proposed a low rise apartment-style building infill in New Edinburgh. The local community association prevailed that the developer go away and bring back a townhouse development instead. Which was then turned down by neighbours because it was too close to the side lot line. Redrawn, then presented again to fresh objections from a new party who now complained it was too close to the rear lot line. The proponent faced endless objections caused by satisifying the first objectors, when they met the zoning rules with their first proposal. Oh vey! Eventually, a harder-nosed developer will simply cease consulting neighbors and build what can be mostly accomodated within the existing rules, whether the neighbors like it or not. So sad.

And house or condo buyers pay the price for this system. And taxpayers for the City planners and detailed planning studies like a CDP that the same community associations that help draft them ... then go on to object to their implementation.  And taxpayers again, who then get to subsidize the construction and repair of social housing units because the badly-regulated market doesn't deliver them cheap enough housing that the same planning process (like "smart growth") worked hard to squeeze out of the market. It's enough to make one cry.

It seems to me there should be a two-step process: the proponent works out with the city the size and shape of the proposed building on the lot and the conflicts between the zoning, infill guidelines, CDP and Official Plan. Once it is agreed what can be built, then the battle moves on to the specifics of the design.


  1. That is exactly how it works in many cities, step 1 - development permit, step 2 - building permit. The development permit process focuses on all the zoning, set back, height, view, NIMBY issues. The whole building isn't designed at this point, just a general scheme, size, exterior appearance. Then the building permit process focuses on technical/code/bylaw issues.

    The lack of need for a development permit is also what would have allowed the city to block the construction of the house shown earlier with the front garage.

  2. Excellent Points.
    Do you have your papers in to run for Council?

  3. I realize I sometimes sound like an idiot, and frequently make mistakes and errors in these posts, and display my ignorance, but pleeeze, I am really happy being an outside critic, retired, doing what I want, choosing my issues and interests, cycling and walking around the city ... why would I give that up to be abused and workhorsed in council? No thanks! But tell your friends to subscribe to the blog feed!