A group of residents in the Seneca/Delaware neighbourhood have launched a lawn sign campaign to promote respect for the existing character of the neighbourhood. The campaign is in response to an influx of new infill homes that replace existing homes. Many of these homes are by the same builder following similar designs. As such, one of concerns many residents have is the overall “cookie cutter” impact of the number of new homes on the same streets that look very similar.
At the same time, most, if not all, of these homes conform to existing zoning and did not require any variances (or public notice).
Residents had asked earlier this year for a “character area study” to determine whether and what kind of changes to zoning or other policies would help protect their neighbourhood. Character area studies are underway in Roseland, Shoreacres Creek and Indian Point. The view of staff at the time was that instead of beginning a new study (some of which have already taken more than two years), Seneca/Delaware and other mature neighbourhoods could benefit and perhaps apply the learnings from these studies.
In a recent Character Study Update memo, staff advised that the reports related to Roseland and Shoreacres, Indian Point, and a third more general report on site plan expectations for detached homes, are all expected to come to the same Development & Infrastructure Committee in February 2016. The reports will be released well in advance of the committee meeting to allow the public time for review. I will let any residents who are on my Delaware/Seneca email, or monthly newsletter, know when these are released.
Meanwhile, this summer, I had an opportunity to walk the neighbourhood with about 70 residents to hear the specifics of their concerns, and to look for ways in the short term to mitigate the impact of the new builds. Though the homes may conform to zoning, residents are concerned that some aspects of some of the homes do not conform to the Site Plan Requirements & Urban Design Guidelines for low density residential zones. These requirements and guidelines were passed in 2009 in response to “monster homes.” Below are some of the concerns raised, with photos, and reference to the site plan/design guidelines.
This fall, I met with staff working on the character area studies to share these pictures and community feedback, so staff can incorporate Seneca/Delaware concerns into the overall character study work and final recommendations.
In my view, homes that conform to zoning must be permitted to proceed, however, if the existing rules deliver a product of concern, we must look at whether and how to change the existing rules. Residents have raised some legitimate concerns regarding areas they believe the new homes do not conform to site plan or design guidelines, which do not have the power of zoning. But some of these matters could be incorporated into future zoning. For example, there are opportunities with zoning changes to tighten the restrictions on garages as a proportion of the first floor. That is one area being considered by staff.
I have also asked each new home builder to voluntarily meet with the residents on each side to discuss window placement, boundary trees, massing and other items to modify designs where possible. This has occurred already on several occasions, with some success.
Regarding the lawn campaign, I am supportive of lawn signs as they help to draw awareness to an issue, promote community dialogue and invite diversity of perspective. In fact, that is happening here. After the signs went up, I received a number of calls and emails from residents, many of them in support of the new homes in their neighbourhood. This diversity of perspective is important. I welcome and listen carefully to all views as they help to inform my service to residents on the issue of infill development in mature neighbourhoods. For more about the rules covering lawn signs, and other types of signs, visit related article here:
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For information on the public meeting in the spring on the Seneca/Delaware infill visit: