This Week at Council: We’re Back in the Zoning!

After a week off for the Easter break, council got back to business by bring to an end a process that began before the time of COVID-19, a four-year mission to finally update the comprehensive zoning bylaw after 30 years. That was the major piece of business, but it was not the only piece of business at this month’s planning meeting. As usual, you’re weekly recap of council will cover all the bases great and small.

Planning Meeting of City Council – April 18

This month’s planning meeting got off to a quick start and then stalled as council considered the intricacies of the updated Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw, now modernized after almost three decades.

After quickly approving the heritage designation for 65 Delhi Street, council heard the appeal of the Sign Variance Report for 245 Hanlon Creek Boulevard. The SmithValeriote Law Firm wants to install two illuminated fascia signs at the top of the third storey of their building, but they can’t do that under the sign bylaw, so it was up to council to make the final decision.

Kevin Thompson, partner at SV Law, delegated to council that the variance should be allowed because this is the Hanlon Creek Business Park and no residential areas will be impacted from light pollution. He also noted the oddity that two illuminated fascia signs would be allowed for a two-storey building, and there’s not much of a difference there, especially when the sign bylaw doesn’t measure out how tall a storey is.

Apparently persuasive, no one on council wanted to endorse the staff recommendation to oppose the variance, so Councillor Rodrigo Goller moved to allow it instead. Councillor Leanne Caron proposed an amendment to allow only non-illuminated signs in the name of controlling light pollution and protecting bird migration, but that failed 3-10. Council unanimously approved the variance without conditions.

Before getting to the big item, council heard about the Sustainable Development Checklist, which codifies in one policy a lot of the things that City staff ask about in the site plan process, and it allows the City of Guelph to maintain it’s sustainable development goals with new builds while creating consistency and uniformity. The presentation wasn’t terribly controversial, and the recommendations passed unanimously thanks to the enthusiasm of council.

Concluding that item brought us to the decision report for the Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw and Companion Official Plan Amendment. Staff walked council through all the changes made, and not made, since the presentation of the CZBL at the Statutory planning meeting last year, including particular emphasis on driveway widths, parking minimums and the use of shipping containers as storage.

After the presentation, council heard from two delegates. The first was Dayna Gilbert, a representative of the owner of the student residence at 601 Scottsdale who wanted some site-specific changes to make future expansion on that property easier. The second delegate was John Lawson from the Old University Neighbourhood Residents Association who wanted to see more guidelines that would allow for growth in his area while maintaining its character.

The first amendment came from Councillor Christine Billings who wanted to change the wording for the maximum width of an attached garage on RL.2 zoned properties to read 50 per cent of lot frontage or five metres, whichever is greater. This passed swiftly, and council took lunch during which someone realized that there were two clauses on screen when council only meant to pass one. Council passed a motion clarifying that it was just the one motion they passed when they started again.

The next motion was from Councillor Dominique O’Rourke who asked to keep the current parking regulations for apartment buildings outside of the downtown core, and that was passed 10-3. O’Rourke’s second motion hit a wall though asking that attached garages be allowed to project out to a maximum of two metres beyond the main front wall. That motion failed 6-7.

On driveway widths, Councillor Dan Gibson brought a motion that would allow a 0.8 metre expansion of the driveway width for semi-detached homes and on-street townhomes *only*. Gibson said that the persistent issues of driveways being a little bit bigger than what’s allowed in the current by-law will be resolved for 80 per cent of properties affected with this one motion.

Most of council seemed to feel that this was a good compromise for an issue that Gibson repeatedly reminded council was now nearly six years old. In the end, there were only a couple of hold outs and the motion passed 11-2.

Next it was Caron turn, and she brought a motion to keep the CZBL in line with the old accessory apartment bylaw by limiting basement apartments to two bedrooms. She argued that the City needs to see the impact of the additional density and maybe comeback in a few years to see if three bedrooms are permissible after all, but council disagreed and the motion failed 2-11.

The next motion, which originated from Mayor Cam Guthrie, asked staff to bring back information about allowing as-of-right permissions for having more than three units on one property with a low-density residential designation. Councillor Cathy Downer proposed a Q1 2025 deadline for the report versus the original deadline of 2024, but only four councillors were dedicated to making staff get it done by next year. The amended 2025 motion passed unanimously.

Goller proposed a motion to remove the maximum size of 80 metres squared for additional residential units saying that it’s hard to build tiny homes for ageing parents making accommodation for walkers or wheelchairs with that restriction. This ended up passing by a thin 7-6 margin, so the default now is that additional residential units will now be able to max out at 30 per cent of yard coverage, but they’ll still be restricted to two bedrooms.

Council then unanimously approved the amended recommendations, and before calling another adjournment passed an additional motion. Staff were asked to investigate opportunities to remove winter on-street parking restrictions city-wide as part of the follow up work to the Transportation Master Plan.

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

The next meeting of city council is the regular meeting of city council on Tuesday at 6:30, which with is preceded by a special workshop meeting of council that begins at 4 pm.

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