Two Neighbourhood Groups Worried About Bylaw Suspensions

The issues around bylaw (over) enforcement of driveway width have a number of people all over Guelph backing a notice of motion by Ward 1 Councillor Dan Gibson to suspend certain provisions of the zoning bylaw until a review is complete. In some Guelph neighbourhoods though, this idea is going to be a tough sell.

One such group is the McElderry Residents Community Group. Linda Davis, spokesperson for the group, said that the proposed bylaw suspension is a “risky scenario,” and “in effect a slippery slope.”

“We’re definitely not against people, as a community group, we’ve worked really, really hard to develop a supportive environment,” Davis added.

The other group that has objections to the bylaw enforcement suspension is the Old University Neighbourhood Residents’ Association, but they could not be reached for comment.

The McElderry group, which has previously taken part in a number of development debates including the potential re-zoning for St. Matthias Church, was asked to comment on Gibson’s notice of motion. A memo outlining the substance of their discussion was sent to Guelph Politico.

The memo outlines a number of concerns, many of which have already been talked about in council, or in meetings on the subject. It includes the note that the City of Guelph has begun a comprehensive bylaw review, and that their might be consequences that arise from the mistaken belief that a suspension in enforcement is a repeal of the whole bylaw.

There are also political concerns. “If adopted, the bylaw suspension will set a dangerous precedent by establishing that if a bylaw is unpopular (particularly in an election year), elected officials may attempt to defuse an issue by requesting suspension,” the memo reads. “If a bylaw is a bad one in law, council should follow procedures to amend or repeal.”

The memo from McElderry group also said the onus should be on developers to make sure that there’s enough parking to accommodate the needs of people buying properties, and that the City of Guelph should push back when developers ask for exceptions to “reduce amenity space and parking.”

In summery, the McElderry group agreed that “To cherry pick aspects of bylaws for enforcement suspension strikes us as risky and selective,” and thus they cannot support the motion.

“It’s a challenge, and we definitely feel for the people experiencing these issues, but it feels like there have been a lot of loud voices callig out rather than neighbourhoods working together on how they can, themselves, accomodate this,” Davis explained.

Davis and others from McElderry met with Gibson, and councillors from Ward 5 and Ward 6 to express their concerns earlier this summer.  Davis said that he group has always worked well with council, and that their goal is always “to maintain harmony.”

But harmony seems hard to come by on this issue. “We don’t have any malice,” Davis said.  “We would like to see some better numbers, some better analysis about what the need is, and we’re going to see that in the bylaw review.”

In the meantime, Davis wondered if there were any other considerations before suspending enforcement. “I would like to see the residents on some of those streets to organize and create some solutions,” she said.

“It just strikes me that they’re just focused on this, suspending the bylaw, and I don’t know if that came out of the political envivroment, but people in these neighbourhoods may not be even on the same page,” Davis added. “I’ve done enough door knocking over the years to knows.”

City staff have recommended in a report in the meeting agenda for September 10 that council should stay the course, and continue complaint-based enforcement until the bylaw review is done in the next two or three years.

Other options considered by staff include having council limit suspension of enforcement to specific geographic areas, letting applications for  variances on driveway widths to be heard in front of the Committee of Adjustment, and the allowance for privately initiated zoning bylaw amendments for groups of properties in effected streets or neighbourhoods to be heard.

A fifth option, to establish a process where individual neighbourhoods can request a temporary suspension of enforcement within small geographic areas, could be the compromise option that council might pursue at Monday’s meeting.

The amended agenda for Monday’s council meeting will be released sometime later today. You will be able to follow Guelph Politico’s live blog here and on Twitter starting at 6:30 pm.

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