By Hugh Whiteley – (Full Letter here)
The proposal put before City Council probably set a record for the number and extent of proposed violations of the standard provision of Guelph’s Official Plan and Zoning By-Law.
The list of violations, in order of increasing severity of violation is : (1) Building Coverage 20% exceedance (36% not 30%); (2) Maximum building height exceedance 33% (4 stories not 3 stories).(3) Length of row exceedance 50% (12 units not 8 units); (4) reduction in minimum sideyard 65% (1.8 m not 5.2 m); (5) reduction in minimum rearyard 84% ( 0.8 m not 5.2 m); (6) reduction in minimum landscaped open space 90% (4% not 40%),(7) minimum lot area per dwelling exceedance 100 % (132 m^2 not 270 m^2) and (8) Density exceedance 100 % ( 76 units/ha not 37.5 units /ha).
Both the building height exceedance and the density exceedance are more egregious than the report to council acknowledges. In an OMB decision for 168 Fife Road the City of Guelph proposed, and the OMB certified, that for an infill development the appropriate density to meet Places to Grow requirements was 22 units/ha and the appropriate height 2 stories. The proposal for the four story development for 180 Gordon has a density a breathtaking 350% greater than the Places to Grow requirement for infill set by Guelph’s planning department.
And things get worse. Marianne Park, and similar river edge public spaces, are protected against adjacent intrusive development by section 4.16 of the Zoning by-law This section requires a generous setback of buildings from the park edge and limits the height of the adjacent buildings. The proposed development completely violates these provisions.
Section 4.16 is carefully buried in the minutia of the zoning by-law. Planning staff chose not to reveal to either the developer or city council the protection afforded Marianne Park by section 4.16. This attempt to sacrifice the ambience of Marianne Park by nondisclosure is especially troubling when one remembers that Marianne Park is a special place. This park is set aside for contemplation of the horrendous cost in suffering and death of spousal violence. It is intended to be a place of tranquility and beauty that is and will remain a continuing reminder of the need in this community to maintain and strengthen our resolve to end spousal abuse.
Is there any hope to save the park?. Of course. An alternative development plan, using the approved Places to Grow density, would provide four two-story townhouse units. This reasonable scale of development can easily be accommodated on 180 Gordon and could fully meet the normal City of Guelph standards. With the required generous setback, and landscaped open space it would be an attractive complement to Marianne Park
What is required to see common sense prevail? All that is needed, but this is not trivial, is for Guelph citizens who care about rivers and parks, and specifically Marianne’s Park, to be stirred to express themselves. In the past a controversial project, such as the 180 Gordon Street development, would trigger a call by the neighbourhood association for public involvement and careful scrutiny. In this case, for whatever reasons, the Old Neighbourhood Association has decided to be an enthusiastic proponent for the proposal with no mention of its obvious flaws.
I invite interested people to examine the proposal on the City of Guelph website ( www.guelph.ca – under “quick links” find “active development files” then “180 Gordon Street”). If you have views on this proposal convey them to the planner and your ward councilors.