KITCHENER — Development is happening so quickly that Kitchener planners are speeding up the implementation of new rules to protect established neighbourhoods.
“We realize we’re getting more and more infill development,” said senior planner Brian Bateman. “People want to live in our beautiful central neighbourhoods. We want to make sure we have the regulations in place that best suit the neighbourhoods.”
Under current rules, the city has little control over someone who wants to tear down an older home and build something very different than the other homes in a neighbourhood. In many cases, all it takes is a building permit.
But interest in older neighbourhoods means the city is seeing a lot more infill development — putting major additions onto existing homes, filling in vacant lots, or splitting large lots in two. So the city carried out a study to ensure new builds in older neighbourhoods were compatible with what was already there. The study, known as RIENS (for Residential Intensification in Established Neighbourhoods Study) was approved in 2015.
Some of the changes recommended in that study require a street-by-street analysis of current zoning, and are being handled under a comprehensive review of all the zoning across the city. But that review could take another two years, and applications are coming in all the time, so planners decided to move ahead with two changes now.
“It may take two or more years of additional work to implement draft new residential zones across the approximately 50,000 residential properties within Kitchener. Additionally, there continues to be development proposals in the central neighbourhoods and it would be beneficial to have the new regulations in place sooner rather than later,” says the planning report, set to go to councillors at an Aug. 13 planning committee.
First, new homes or additions will have to be about the same distance from the street as the houses on either side. Setbacks would be calculated by averaging the setbacks of the abutting properties. That would ban someone from building an addition that juts much closer to the street and dominates the streetscape.
Second, garages won’t be allowed to jut out in front of the house. “That’s more of a suburban housing style,” Bateman said.
Planners say other changes require an in-depth study of current zoning and can be put in place with the review of the city’s zoning:
• Limiting building height to 8.5 metres, or two storeys, rather than the current 10.5 metres, if the homes on either side are bungalows;
• More specific rules will spell out what types of garage — attached, detached, double or single — are allowed, depending on what is typical in that neighbourhood.
The RIENS rules don’t apply to bigger developments of more than two units — those require site plan approval — and only apply to the central area from the Waterloo border down to the Conestoga Parkway and bounded by Westmount Road to the west, as well as the Vanier neighbourhood bounded by Highway 8, Fairway Road and Courtland Avenue.