A few amateur thoughts on Edmonton, infill, zoning, and city planning

City dwellers react to the architectural forms and spaces which they encounter: specific consequences may be looked for in their thoughts, feelings and actions.  Their response to Architecture is usually subconscious. Designers themselves are usually unconscious of the effects which their creations will produce.

— Hugh Ferriss, The Metropolis of Tomorrow, p.142

There’s a thing going on in Edmonton about Infill.  Personally, I think infill of various types is vital to our city. Personally I think that increasing density through infill can build more vibrant communities and continue to make Edmonton the exciting, inspiring place to live that it has been as long as I can remember.  But I think there’s been some misleading rhetoric in the debate.

First, a definition

To me and, I expect, to many in Edmonton, a “neighbourhood” is a geographical entity with a name and probably a Community Hall and a Community League. Parkallen is a “neighbourhood”. The 100 block of Whyte avenue is a “block” not a “neighbourhood”.  A number of blocks is “a number of blocks” or an “area”, not a “neighbourhood”.

There’s been a line trotted around in various forms that no neighbourhood in Edmonton has a right to be exclusively single-family houses.

I agree. When I first heard this line I thought of the outlying suburbs where single-single family houses are the overwhelming majority of the residential dwellings.

But no neighbourhood in Edmonton, not even the most exclusive, is exclusively single-family houses.  Not a single one.

Sure, there are blocks, numbers of blocks and areas within neighbourhoods which are now exclusively single family houses.  My side of the street is exclusively single family houses. The other side of the street is a mix of duplexes, basement suites, single family houses. Across the alley from them it’s all walk-up apartments. And across that street is commercial. This area is a vibrant community within the perhaps equally vibrant neighbourhood called Strathcona.  It is decidedly not exclusively single-family houses, but areas of the neighbourhood decidedly are. This patchwork, this mosaic of areas is, I think, part of what makes and maintain the vibrancy and liveability of our neighbourhood.

Edmonton does not need a residential infill development free-for-all. Edmonton needs incentive to increase density through infill guided by conscientious zoning of all  residential types, including single-family houses to create a mosaic of blocks, groups of blocks and areas within a neighbourhood – within a community.

Take a walk through Parkallen

Take a walk, a ride or a drive through Parkallen sometime and you’ll see what I think is a terrific neighbourhood made up of zoned residential types. If Parkallen’s areas of RF1 (single-family houses) were simply removed, the neighbourhood would be quite simply destroyed by chaotic redevelopment.

Density could be easily increased through a judicious use of rezoning, juggling the mix, decreasing the total area zoned RF1 so that the transition is orderly, organic, and retains the essential overarching character of the neighbourhood.  This course would be planning. Simply eliminating RF1 would be the abdication by the City of the responsibility for planning and, indeed, the ability to plan.  Neighbourhoods would, in the end, become more dense, but homogeneous and chaotic, grey and unpleasant.

I must thank my good neighbour and good friend Charlie for the conversation this afternoon which really focused my thoughts on this subject.

Please also see A few more amateur thoughts on Edmonton, infill, zoning, and city planning.

Update, August 22, 2014:

First I want to thank Councillor Walters for engaging in conversation both here in the comments below and also on Twitter. And thanks to Paul, as well.  It’s a fine thing to live in a community in which elected officials are so accessible. As a matter of fact, yesterday, as well as the online conversation with Councillor Walters, I was fortunate to have pleasant face-to-face conversations with Councillor Michael Oshry and Alberta Cabinet Minister Heather Klimchuk. It’s so encouraging to be able to simply chat with our elected officials.

Second, in the interest of transparency, I must mention that I don’t have a personal neighbourhood dog in this fight. Strathcona, the happy neighbourhood in which I live, is considered “Central Core” and so is not the subject of the “Infill Roadmap”.  The Roadmap is directed at Edmonton’s “Mature” and “Established” neighbourhoods, one of which is Parkallen, which I use above as an example of a very liveable neighbourhood which could be destroyed by injudicious, sweeping zoning changes.

Third, Edmonton seems to like to have pilot projects. There’s one happening right now about backyard beekeeping. There’s one coming up about backyard chickens. I wish our City’s Administration, instead of conducting studies and then implementing the infill plans, would consider a pilot rezoning project.  Why not rezone a single street or the end of a block within a neighbourhood and see what happens?  We do pilot projects about relatively small issues. Why not do one or two to investigate this major change in our urban landscape?

Update, December 7, 2014: In the comments below there has been mention of the house in my neighbourhood which has unfortunately been given a “tear down order” due to a number of violations, not least construction without permits.  The neighbourhood came together quite strongly to ensure that the planning authorities took notice and action.  As a tonic to any suspicion that our neighbourhood is filled with anti-infill NIMBism, here’s a story about the infill house underconstruction kitty-corner from the unfortunate tear down house.  From the beginning, the owners of the property, a husband and wife, have been visiting neighbours to discuss what they plan for their house and have listened to concerns expressed. The contractor has posted on the property a large “artists conception” of the finished house.  The construction has proceeded smoothly and with little disruption.  Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, the ATCO excavation for the new gas line for the new home ran into some trouble and ATCO has closed one end of our back alley.  This is a bit of an inconvenience, particularly after the big snowfall.  Last night, one of the neighbours engaged the contractor on Twitter:

urbanage1 urbanage2

.

It’s tremendous to see this sort of engagement and neighbourliness from infill contractors and from the established community.  About twenty years ago a contractor knocked on my door to show me the plans he had for the vacant lot next door.  He pointed out details like his window placements which were carefully arranged to be out of alignment with the windows on my house thereby maximizing privacy for both of us.  That contractor (shout out to Centennial Homes), now my friend and neighbour, has since built two other immediately neighbouring infill homes as well as my new garage. He and his family are now well-established members of our neighbourhood community.  Our community has embraced infill development.  The last thing we want is for residential infill to get a bad reputation because of the unfortunate actions of a few unneighbourly contractors.

Update October 14, 2015:  Last week I got a message on Facebook from Chris Hutton about trouble residents are having in Westbrook Estates and Aspen Gardens with what seems to amount to blanket zoning in their neighbourhoods which now freely allows redevelopment of properties in ways that would have been disallowed just a year ago because they’d be “not consistent with the rest of the neighbourhood“.  As Chris puts it, “All city planning is now in the hands of the free market.”  Concerned residents of the neighbourhoods are getting organized and have created a web page titled Edmonton Lot Subdivision.  Definitely worth a visit for homeowners, developers, planners and City Councilors in Edmonton.

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40 comments on “A few amateur thoughts on Edmonton, infill, zoning, and city planning

  1. I agree John that simply switching RF1 to RF3 is not the easy answer to achieving our goal of building a more compact city. The point of my inquiry about RF1 and RF3 was to highlight where infill in our city is going and at what rate. RF1 neighbourhoods are losing in Edmonton today. They are losing population, schools, commercial services and all the while the housing prices and property taxes increase annually. If we expect to meet our over all density targets as a city and if we want neighbourhoods to remain vibrant, RF1 neighbourhoods must change. We passed a motion on Tuesday to include the sub division of Rf1 lots and allow for inclusion of garage and gardens suites in Rf1. This will come to a public hearing in the spring of 2015 and prior to then people will have many opportunities to weigh in. As well we passed a motion directing our administration to begin looking at options to overhaul all of our low density zones from RF1-4- to help us achieve that better mix of housing choice that is ground zero for all the other things we want, such as compact efficient city, open schools, vibrant commercial centres, etc. This overhaul will involve much community engagement and will take more time, but hopefully will achieve much of what you allude to in your post here. I would be interested to talk with you more any time and if you wish to pull together a group of neighbours I would be happy to participate in any larger group conversation about infill in mature neighbourhoods.

    • Thanks for the comment, Councilor Walters. I remain concerned about the use of the phrase “RF1 neighbourhoods” because I think it is misleading. I live on an RF1 lot, but my neighbourhood is zoned in all sorts of ways, as I suggest above. This is the way of every neighbourhood in the city.

      My major dread, however, is that the wholesale revamping of RF1, whether it is an explicit or only a de facto elimination, will lead to chaotic, lot by lot redevelopment of single-family lots. I still feel it would be wiser to achieve the same goals in an orderly manner by carefully rezoning areas at the edges of single-family streets, blocks and areas, while perhaps expanding the allowability of suites within those areas.

      Something else which has been completely absent from the density/infill discussion, as far as I can tell, is the potential for residential infill in some of the city’s vast light industrial/commercial areas which are wastelands after 5 pm. These areas have infrastructure in place which is perhaps underutilized. Seeding them with low cost residential areas by means of zoning changes would ultimately reduce trasportation costs, bring new business to already existing commercial enterprises (resaurants, etc.), and jumpstart new business in areas which are empty 12 out of 24 hours. To me, these areas have huge potential for mixed use which is being entirely ignored. As it is, every single worker in those areas must commute from a distant part of the city every day adding a tremendous load to our transportation infrastructure. Would none of them choose to live close to their work if it were possible?

      • sydney says:

        Here’s a thought with respect to the light industrial areas you speak of John: there’s a shortage of affordable live-work spaces in this city. For artists of all types. For start-up entrepreneurs who need fabrication space. For artisans. For musicians. And the list goes on … Some of the vastly under-utilized infrastructure you mentions is ideal for exactly those types of redevelopment. Makes those parts of town safer, by drawing more bodies moving on the streets at all hours. Could help improve the transit to those areas too, by virtue of increased demand. And THAT would make it easier and potentially much more attractive for people who do work in light industry in those areas to move there and bring their families.

        PS – Your post about consignment was brilliant. Thanks!

      • Thanks so much, Sydney. I completely agree that artist live-work spaces would be an ideal supplement to those areas.

  2. Paul says:

    I could be wrong about this but I think Aspen Gardens consists entirely of single family homes. That’s Counc. Walters neighbourhood.
    I agree that city needs to refine this plan. It would make more sense to allow lot splitting after homes in neighbourhood reach a certain age and the declining value of the housing structures makes redevelopment more likely anyway.
    I also think the argument that this will lower land values and allow young folks to buy the home of their dreams is bunk. Upzoning will increase income potential from land and that always raises the value.

    • According to the city’s profilr of Aspen Gardens:

      ” Aspen Gardens was developed on land annexed to the City of Edmonton in 1960. The neighbourhood’s single-family homes were constructed during the 1960s. The apartments were built during the 1970s.”

      But it certainly looks overwhelmingly simgle-family on google maps.

  3. Yes I do live in Aspen Gardens, which is mainly RF1 with some RA7- for apartments and condo’s on the east edge and some RF3 (I believe) for seniors housing near Fairway Drive.

    Edmonton is expected to reach 1.5 million people by 2044. We are essentially adding a city of Leduc within Edmonton every year. We have 108 mature neighbourhoods, of which 16 are predominately RF3 and along with the 11 “core neighbourhoods” are bearing nearly all of our infill. We have 96 established neighbourhoods, with more diverse range of housing choices and we have 85 developing and planned neighbourhoods, which are not yet completed. Of the ~ 169,000 people we are expecting in the next 5-7 years 129,000 people will move into developing neighbourhoods, with the rest spread over core, mature and established communities. But of the mature neighbourhoods to gain population it would, if we made no changes, all be concentrated in the 16 RF3 neighbourhoods. Population in the mainly RF1 neighbourhoods has declined by 73,000 people since 1971 and even with Edmonton’s incredible growth, will continue to decline into the future.

    Paul I would respectfully ask how you feel the city can best accommodate our projected population growth?

    Thanks to you both for the conversation.

    Michael

  4. Paul says:

    This is my personal opinion (I do work in residential construction and my employer may have other views) but I would suggest that you can’t ignore economics. Demolishing an existing structure makes more sense as it gets older so the most feasible projects will be in the oldest neighborhoods.
    A neighbourhood like Lendrum would be ideal in the sense of appealing to young families – close to LRT, shopping, Savile, etc — but most homes there are still in good shape so unlikely to be a lot of redevelopment in near term. Garage suites would be a more reasonable goal.
    Also worth recognizing that land in attractive locations is not going to fall in value. Higher potential density will usually make land more valuable. My neighbour was turned down for a permit for a big single on a 75-foot wide lot. Now he appears to be waiting to try to split into three lots. Paid $400,000 under 2 years ago and demolished old rundown house. I doubt if he will be looking for $133,000 per lot after this – more like $250,000 or more per. So land has risen to $750,000-plus and homes are going to top $550,000 minimum.
    Also note that city will be competing against infill to sell units in Blatchford because the target audience is somewhat similar.
    Other answers to reversing population decline may be more effective. Many older folks hang onto their homes longer than they really want to or should because the alternatives for seniors are scarce. Are there ways to break that logjam and make some of these properties available for sale?
    And there are probably other redevelopment opportunities of larger scale that would achieve more. Take a look sometime at Pleasantview Townhomes complex east of Southgate. Run down, low density units on a huge chunk of land that’s an easy walk to Southgate LRT. A redevelopment of that single parcel could provide more units than house by house infill. Still won’t be cheap. The property is already producing significant rents and location is great.
    Ask if some single family neighbourhoods are worth preserving. We hear a lot about the need to attract young people to Edmonton with affordable, city-centre homes but city has a lot of labour needs — including people with a lot of skills that want that lifestyle and can choose to live where they want. (Doctors, etc.)
    And lastly, recognize that city can say all it wants about how newly expanded infill zone will be better managed than the current confusing shmozole but nobody will buy it until there is some proof. It would be better to fix current system before moving to RF1 and having that be the same inconsistent mess that we’ve seen so far. This is not a failure to communicate — as the cheery roadmap tends to suggest — but a failure over a long period to deal with complaints from both new and existing residents about the process.

    • I’ve tried twice today to post long responses from my phone and lost them both. I’ll do it from a proper computer this evening 🙂

    • Okay.

      First, thanks again, Councillor Walters, for engaging like this. One of the great things about Edmonton is the approachability of our elected officials. And thank you, Paul, for joining in.

      For about 25 years I’ve lived in the little corner of Strathcona east of 99th street. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. within the few blocks around my single-family we have basement suites, garage suites, semi-detached (rental and owned), single-family houses (rental and owned) walk-up and high-rise rental appartments, walk-up and highrise condos, commercial and retail space, even light industrial. I love the vibrancy that comes from living in the density of a “Central Core” neighbourhood.

      But our neighbourhood is a product of ZONE-ing. The architectural types are generally together in zones. High rises of all types are along Saskatchewan drive, walk-ups tend to be grouped near 99th Street and along Whyte Avenue. Semi-detached (we call them “duplexes” or “fourplexes” in the ‘hood) are salted in with single-families on larger, often corner lots. We also have a few (upscale, BTW) skinny houses. The result is that we have a coherent, organic community aranged with a living logic and with appropriately grouped architectural scales. In short, the arrangement of dwellings in our little, dense area *makes sense*.

      I truly want our city’s density to increase and I want it to happen soon. I dearly wish very high minimum densities had been imposed on all outlying new developments over the last thirty years. I really want infill to succeed. What I dread is that the redefinition of RF1 will effectively eliminate coherent, zoning guided redevelopment of mature and established neighbourhoods. I worry that instead of encouraging the organic expansion of the various high density architectural types, the infill “plan” will pepper the low density areas with nonsensical juxtapositions of scale and purpose. I’m certain that coherent zoning can lead to coherent infill and the survival of coherent communities. I’m not certain, however, that the wholesale redefinition of RF1 to include more types and densities of residential space is coherent zoning.

      Actually, I’m pretty certain that it is not.

  5. Karen Marlin says:

    This conversation is right on point! Unfettered infill will drive up prices and cause a developer frenzy which is actually already happening in my neighbourhood of Parkallen. I’m concerned about zoning bylaw amendments that will change garage suites from “discretionary” to “permitted”, thus removing existing residents from redevelopment that affects them. On a larger scale, some beautiful neighbourhoods might lose their inherent desirability when buildings are crowded together and much of the mature vegetation is destroyed. Many mature neighbourhood schools are undersubscribed, but the real reason is because residents choose specialty programs and do not send their children to the neighbourhood school. When my children attended the neighbourhood school and enrollment was an issue, we discovered that only about 35% of residents sent their children to the neighbourhood school, and the rest were divided between separate(catholic), french immersion and other charter schools. In September 2015, a mandarin immersion language program will launch at Parkallen school and I think the school might suddenly be oversubscribed! I also agree that redeveloping some of the larger tracts of land in mature areas of the city (some have old apartments and other multi-family styles of residences) would be a more efficient way to increase population centrally in Edmonton. Simply crowding buildings onto small lots in mature neighbourhoods with no pilot projects or comprehensive plan in place will in my opinion, potentially create more problems than it would solve. I think the infill dialogue is valuable but it is just a conversation and the reality of development is something that homeowners in mature neighbourhoods are living through right now. I think we can learn from some of these bad examples and perhaps have a more guided plan for redeveloping our beautiful city.

    • Thanks Karen. As I mention, Parkallen is one of my favourite neighbourhood, a masterpiece of planning that needs ti be understood and protected as it is updated.
      I’ve said somewhere that Zoning needs to be about intelligent planning of *zones* of particular land use, not just announcing “anything goes!” for a large area. Parkallen got it dead on from the beginning–a coherent arrangement of residential densities, small commercial and green space.

  6. Gerry Montgomery says:

    Hi John the comments on this forum are excellent. My husband and I have lived in Parkallen for 32 years. You are correct that this was a neighborhood that got it right at the beginning of its inception. The neighborhood has always been a mix of diverse and eclectic people and structures. The park is beautiful and is surrounded by numerous well kept walk up apartments, condos and homes. We moved to this area because we loved the canopying trees and the character of the older modest homes and the accessability to the university, downtown and the west end. We knew thirty years ago that this was a smart investment. It has not been without many struggles as Parkallen tends to be a flood zone and therefore many dollars have been spent by community members on keeping the water out. It has been worth it we raised two children here albeit in smaller quarters than most of our friends and now that they have moved on we have the perfect sized house to retire in. We don’t have to downsize we chose that thirty years ago. I understand people wanting to live close to the city core but what I abhor is this insistence that they feel they are entitled to live in my neighborhood in a house that is far to large for the lots ,that reduce privacy and diminish the character of the neighborhood. Many people and council are insisting that we need density and affordability. The economic facts are that neither of these two issues will be achieved by this current rush of development .There are many studies across cities in North America that have existing infill that attest to my statement.. Many students rent homes in Parkallen the more these rentals come down the less affordable housing is available to them and to the many single families that rent in either homes or in the apartments. Development is about money it always has been there is nothing philanthropic attached to it and money does not care about people, homes and unfortunately communities. It is becoming more apparent that our current city council is determined to be on the wrong side of Edmonton’s history.

    • Thanks, Gerry.
      I agree with almost all you say.
      I live in Strathcona, on the east side of 99th. I’ve been here for close to 30 years, first in a postwar bungalow (still there) and the last 20 in one of a pair of infill homes that replaced a decaying single house. I feel that infill houses can be done tastefully, and we’ve been fairly lucky here. Often it’s been replacing a bungalow on a double lot with two two story houses, which pretty much doubles density without any damage to the character of the neighbourhood.
      I have to say, I agree with council that density must increase, but neighbourhoods must retain *zones* of different use. It can’t be “any use on any lot”. Personally, I think high rise rental and condo along arterial routes and near transit centres should be a major emphasis in the effort to increase density. That would solve the issue a lot more quickly and thouroughly than a couple of garage suites on each block.

  7. Karen Marlin says:

    I would like to see city council leave the current language on garage/garden suites as “discretionary” which means that surrounding neighbours are consulted in the planning process and can voice their concerns. In February, council will vote to change the language to “permitted” which means anywhere anytime with no neighbour consultation. In the case of small lots, this is very invasive and i believe undesirable. In the case of small lots, basements suites are a better option. If the language stays the way it currently is in zoning bylaw 12800, then garage suites will be allowed but only if the affected neighbours are in agreement. This is much more democratic i think. I’ve raised my children here and lived in Parkallen for 31 years and I don’t like that city council plans to leave the densification planning to free market forces and developers. The plan needs to be more comprehensive if we want to ensure an acceptable outcome.

    “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up some place else.” Yogi Berra

    • I think the emphasis on garage and garden suites (if there is actually such an emphasis in council’s deliberations rather than just in citizens’ deliberations) is a little wrong headed. Even if every house in a neighbourhood had a garden or garage suite, I wouldn’t expect the density of the neighbourhood to even double, but the character of the neighbourhood would probably be quite changed. If, however, as I suggested above, a fringe zone of the neighbourhood along an arterial road were rezoned from commercial, for example, to commercial with residential highrise (with some emphasis on affordability) above, then the density issue would be remedied almost immediately without changing the neighbourhood’s character and with the added benefit of revitalizing both a neighbourhood school and a walkable commercial area. In the specific case of Parkallen, I would suggest that such rezoning of some of the strip along 109th in this way would not, on the whole, adversely affect the character of the neighbourhood, and would meet most of the increased density goals for Parkallen.

      In my own area, I wish 99th street north of Whyte Avenue had been judiciously rezoned in this way. Instead of all the new development being four story condos, it would have been nice to see more ground floor commercial with residential above, including rental accomodation affordable for University students and young working families. Garage suites aren’t going to bring children into an aging neighbourhood, but affordable rental homes in low and highrise buildings will.

      • Karen Marlin says:

        John, I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. Currently garage/garden suites (which are 2 storey structures in backyards) are allowed but discretionary on properties that meet certain requirements, some of which are a) next to an arterial roadway b) on a corner lot with lane access to a roadway c) 2 parking stalls provided and there are other requirements. The amendments propose that these types of suites be “permitted” which means “no consultation with neighbours” and “no site specific assessment” just that they will be permitted on all lots in mature neighbourhoods. This will really affect the small wartime lots in many mature neighbourhoods, so they can jam a three storey house and a two storey garage suite on the site without consultation with neighbours. This is what permitted means. If it’s passed instead with the language being “discretionary”, then these suites would still be allowed, but only where the neighbours were in agreement . The current zoning bylaw language has these garage/garden suites as “discretionary” and now with the proposed amendments, they will not only be allowed on all lots, but will be permitted…no more consultation. The same will be for dividing 50 ft wide lots (and larger) into two. Sorry to go on, but it’s a bit of a fine point which is not being emphasized in the community consultation process.
        I agree that looking into alternatives like you have suggested will achieve greater population density and would better help to maintain a neighbourhood’s character.

  8. I agree, Karen. Garage suites should definitely stay discretionary.

  9. Gerry Montgomery says:

    Yes John I agree that there are good examples of infill in fact we have two of them on our street. As you are probably aware not all builders are competent case in point the home being torn down in Strathcona. The city at this moment is not equipped nor have they properly planned for enforcement of the bylaws in Mature Neighborhoods and this has enhanced the negative reaction to all types of development. I do agree with you that apartments on the 109th street corridor would certainly address density. The university will be using the farm for student housing and this will also fulfill their density targets and depending on the type of housing for families this could potentially help fill schools in Parkallen,lendrum and Grandview. Thanks for the feedback

    • That house in Strathcona is a few doors from me. That was such an egregious case of ignorance of/indifference to/defience of the simple rules and procedures that it’s pitiful. BTW it’s not “being torn down” just yet. There’s the possibility of a court appeal and whatever delay that may entail. And I don’t know any neighbours who want it torn down – we’d like it remedied if possible. But that would involve hoisting the house, demolishing the basement, and building a new one at proper depth. Then the house would match the plans submitted by the contractor, and everyone would welcome a new infill home to the neighbourhood.
      This experience has led me to suggest a requirement that infill developers be required to post thwir permits on the property before work begins, like any other business has to post permits and licences.

      • Gerry Montgomery says:

        I agree but it should never have been allowed to progress to this point. The foundation inspectors should have picked up on the depth immediately but maybe it was not inspected. I would like to see permits and inspection stickers posted on all sites. I am sorry for the homeowners but they have to accept the ultimate responsibility as they own the lot. The most economical way is to tear it down and start again a very costly thing to do. The worse thing for your neighborhood is if the owners throw in the towel and walk away. I have personally seen this in Calgary in a mature expensive neighborhood and massive boarded and abandoned unfinished homes dot the landscape. So hopefully not for you and the neighbors.

      • We’re pretty sure the foundation still hasn’t been inspected. Of course, the house was largely completed before any permits were much past initial application.

  10. Karen Marlin says:

    I like the update on developers with integrity that consult openly with neighbours. I think that we still need comprehensive zoning bylaws that give neighbours the right to consult on new infill development, unfortunately not all infill developers want to bother with consultation. With the upcoming zoning bylaw amendments (public hearing Feb 2014) neighbours may lose their rights to consult on garage/garden suites and lot subdividing into skinny infill. The concepts are not problematic so much as the proposed “language” of zoning bylaw 12800 which will have these infill initiatives as “permitted’ (which means developers don’t have any right of appeal or input). I think these initiatives should rather be “allowed” but discretionary (which means affected neighbours are consulted and have rights to input on development before it is permitted). I do believe that during the public consulation process, this was glossed over in the dialogue.

    Correction, I mean the hearing will be Feb 2015…..
    also it will be the neighbours, not the developers who will lose their right input and right to appeal. oops.

    • I agree, Karen. There are a number of fronts in this battle (sorry to use military imagery). I do think that encouraging owners, developers and contractors to chat over the fence, and encouraging community members to be willing to converse with these new neighbours, is something worthwhile and necessary, alongside the campaign to have the City get the zoning right.
      As a side note, the builder who came to my door 20 years ago and then settled down to be a neighbour and friend: he had no legal obligation to consult the neighbours. As a rule he doesn’t ask for variances. But he still visits the neighbours, partly, I’m sure, because it’s the kind of guy he is, but also because that little bit of neighbourliness saves headaches on that project, and is invaluable for goodwill and word of mouth advertising down the road.
      I think the builders who make that small effort at being a part of the community deserve to be rewarded with a polite and open minded listen, maybe a cup of coffee, and an honest expression of any concerns about the project. And, if, in the end, it turns out to be a good experience, we should be willing to tell people what a straight-up person that builder seems to be.
      And we need to share the horror stories, too.

      • Karen Marlin says:

        Right now homeowners in mature neighbourhoods need to be aware of the zoning bylaw 12800 amendments that are before city council and how those will impact them. I know that all developers/homebuilders favor less restriction in zoning regulations but if the legal requirements for neighbour consultation are reduced by amendments to current zoning bylaw 12800 (such as is currently planned with garage/garden suites and RF1 lot subdivision) then really we all lose.
        Infill wil happen, there will always be great and poor examples, but WE can have a dialogue with citizens of Edmonton about their communities, their rights and their opinions. It doesn’t have to promote or denigrate any interest group.

      • BTW, I invited Councilor Walters, who’s already commented here, to come back and take a look at the ongoing conversation.

      • Karen Marlin says:

        Excellent! Thankyou again…

      • I think the key for all of us is conversation. With everybody.

        And leaving some things “discretionary” is *mandating* conversation.

        Blanket extension of permission is shutting down conversation. And very unneighbourly.

      • The current Council is dedicated to openness. I’m sure if explained correctly, they’d understand that blanket zoning permissions is the opposite of what they’ve been talking about.

      • Karen Marlin says:

        I hope so, however when i asked my alderman for the facts, i was told that these relaxations would be “permitted” and not “allowed” and so I feel strongly about this conversation…

      • Karen Marlin says:

        Anyway, let’s hear what others have to say and i also would welcome any technical clarification on my interpretation from Michael Walters, but please no more propaganda or manipulated statistics…i do understand the rationale for increasing density in the central core and I think it’s essential that those most affected by new development (ie. neighbouring residents) are legal participants in planning that development.

      • Not sure who you mean by “propaganda or manipulated statistics” but it sounds like someone doesn’t have your trust. Conversation’s the only thing that can change that.

  11. Karen Marlin says:

    Correction, I mean the hearing will be Feb 2015…..
    also it will be the neighbours, not the developers who will lose their right input and right to appeal. oops.
    [I’ve added this correction to Karen’s original post where it belongs – JR]

  12. Karen Marlin says:

    Interesting survey results on the impacts of infill housing on communities in Christchurch, New Zealand.

    https://researcharchive.lincoln.ac.nz/bitstream/10182/4539/1/infill_housing_christchurch.pdf

    • I found it interesting that people who live in infill were more likely to approve of more infill. My neighbourhood is made up of homes built in pretty much every decade of the last hundred years, so, we pretty much all live in infill homes of one period or another 🙂

  13. […] 3. A few amateur thoughts on Edmonton, infill, zoning, and city planning […]

  14. […] This is a follow up to my A few amateur thoughts on Edmonton, infill, zoning, and city planning. […]

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