How to BILD?

The housing builders association (BILD) regularly lobbies for easier access to more land for more single-family housing in the GTA. They expect an average of 115,000 new residents per year over the next 20 years – a total of 2.5 million more residents in the region.

That will require 55,000 new homes every year according to BILD. They have put forward a four-point plan that includes:

“Fair & equitable fees, taxes and charges”

BILD says these make up 25% of the cost of an average new home. These types of development charges are applied by municipalities to recover the cost of installing basic infrastructure – i.e. water pipes and sewers. Development charges can also be levied by school boards and the county.

“The revenue pays for increased capital costs related to hard and soft services that come as a result of more people and businesses moving into the municipality. For example, the revenue could go toward the construction of new sewer and road systems that might not have been required before. The revenue could also be put toward soft services like new municipal recreation centres and libraries.” (A brief explanation of development charges, Toronto Star, March 2013)

These development charges can vary substantially by municipality. Each municipality decides what’s right for them. I don’t think ‘one size fits all’ is a workable approach. The development charges are collected as housing is built. Municipalities foot the initial infrastructure cost. Historically though, municipalities never catch up with cost recovery.

“Fund & build critical infrastructure”

By that they mean municipalities (i.e. – you) should foot the bill to add new infrastructure over greenfields now without the limitation of sprawl-limiting intensification regulations. Doug Ford’s accidental admission that he was thinking of opening up the Greenbelt to development is an example.

“Cut bureaucratic red tape”

BILD wants a uniform “service standard” to speed up permits and inspections for “building and renovations”.

Adopt new housing solutions

Specifically, BILD refers to laneway housing and secondary suites as ways to “unlock the potential of current neighbourhoods”.

Is that it? I have to wonder if there aren’t more ways to provide more affordable housing? For instance, I have walked through a few local model homes and felt they were really inappropriate to the market. Like the oversized homes, for instance, with “luxury” features, and wasted unusable spaces that were priced around the million dollar mark. Are builders really building for the market? Or building to maximize profit?

Maybe we should (in no particular order):

  • Encourage more relocation to smaller communities
  • Require a better mix of smaller housing
  • Require a better mix of low-rise housing options (I still fondly remember my old walk-up apartment)
  • Research more live/work design possibilities (like the huge residence that was built over a small factory in Toronto)
  • Ban the demolition of existing usable (livable/convertible) buildings
  • Prevent housing speculation through new sales conditions
  • Examine new technologies for basic (water/sewer) infrastructure
  • Examine new technologies to lower construction costs
  • Remove the cost of land from housing developments (I know, think about it)
  • Just wait for us of the ‘boomer’ generation to exit stage left?

Feel free to share your ideas too.

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Friday Harbour: Bigger. Better?

Friday Harbor is pregnant – with possibilities. The Town of Innisfil and the County of Simcoe have received planning applications to amend the Official Plans of the County and Town and the Zoning By-law of the Town of Innisfil for the following purposes related to the development of Friday Harbour:  Continue reading

Mixed Use Developments Rise in Alcona

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Illustration (MHBC Planning): Janis Ramsey – Metroland

While a seniors residence with ground floor retail is currently under way at the corner of Innisfil Beach Road and the 25th Sideroad, Innisfil residents had the opportunity on March 6 to examine plans for a multi-use development at Jans Blvd. and Innisfil Beach Rd. and adjoining lots (1124 – 1154 Innisfil Beach Rd., illustrated above)

This plan includes a seven-storey building with retail and 147 condo units. The proposal also includes retail and office buildings, two restaurants and three blocks of townhouses.

The Open House was called to review plan amendments concerning “minimum front yard setback, minimum building height, and rear yard setback for accessory structure.” Subdivision of the lands would create “new property lines between the residential townhouse, multi-tenant commercial, restaurant and mixed-use commercial/residential uses. Five accesses are planned – two from Innisfil Beach Rd., two from Jans Blvd., and one from Goshen Rd.”

A Public Meeting to further examine this plan is scheduled for Wednesday, March 21 at 6:00 pm at Town Hall. There will be a formal presentation followed by questions and comments. The proposal then returns to Staff to consider comments and submissions in order to prepare a final recommendation to Council at a future date.

Urbanization Approaching Reality

On Wednesday, December 6, Council formally received a proposal for an eight-story condo with street-front retail. The development is proposed for the north side of Innisfil Beach Road, adjacent to Alcona Home Hardware and west of the corner plaza.

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Development Proposal – 828 Innisfil Beach Road

The building would consist of eight floors and 80 residential units. Designed as an adult building for ‘seniors’ aged 55+, the condo units would consist of one and two bedroom layouts. The ground floor would provide a total of about 5,000 square feet of retail space along the street. Parking is situated behind the building in a lot with a landscaped perimeter. In a unique approach to snow management, a snow melter would be utilized to remove accumulations.

In some ways, watching the planning process play out in Innisfil is the municipal equivalent of watching paint dry. The final report of the Inspiring Innisfil Official Plan was released in February 2011. It advocated for an “urban core”. The design guidelines proposed multi-storey zoning in an Innisfil Beach Road commercial zone with retail situated at the street. More than six years later we are just beginning to see this concept take shape. Two other buildings are reaching completion near Adullam Ave., and a multi-storey rental building is expected to receive approval for the south side of Innisfil Beach Rd at the 25th Sideroad.

This development addresses several needs. It provides local accommodation for an aging population (a neighbor has reluctantly moved to Barrie recently); it fills a gap in the streetscape with more convenient local retail and encourages more activity (social and economic) on the street. The condo proposal has been working its way through the planning and approval process since May of 2016 and reached a final proposal of zoning bylaw amendments in November this year. The building proposal was received as ‘information only’. The development will require Council approval of some zoning bylaw amendments concerning height (8 instead of 7 stories) and small changes to setbacks. The developer’s plan comes back to Council for consideration in the spring.

Download PDF:

828 Innisfil Beach Road ZBA & OPA Presentation

Commercial at the Core

A new building under construction on the south side of Innisfil Beach Road is the first development to follow the design guidelines set out under the Inspiring Innisfil 2020 Official Plan. It is a multi-story, mixed-use building that fronts the sidewalk.

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The original signage on the property indicated it would be a medical building. The current signage only indicates leasing availability. It remains to be seen what final form this development will take and whether it is the start of a new approach to Alcona development or whether it will be an anomaly on the street.

Meanwhile, the development proposal for the Abendel property on the north side of Innisfil Beach Road seems to have stalled or collapsed. Old signage has been left to deteriorate. Nothing further has occurred since the additional purchase of Scotty’s Towing, which is boarded up. This was originally proposed to be yet another strip mall with the addition of a bank building and a fast-food franchise. Local resident opposition blocked earlier proposals for a residential tower and townhouses on part of the property.

Over at the 25th Sideroad and Innisfil Beach Road, the corner property has also been idle for the summer in spite of reported OMB approval for a proposed multi-story seniors condo with ground-floor retail and a banner proclaiming, “great things are happening”.

After the departure of Lakeside Treasures this summer, 1041 Innisfil Beach Road also sits idle. This property has a history of frequent tenant turnover. A rezoning notice appeared briefly this summer for a “one story commercial” building before being taken down.

At the western end of Alcona, a new housing tract is advancing toward the northern edge of the No Frills parking lot and a new building is taking shape near the supermarket, expected to be another fast-food franchise.

The Centreville plan in Stroud is advancing. Land severance has been approved for single detached housing on the north side of the property. Townhouses, a gas station, convenience store and strip mall form the rest of the project.  A ‘hold’ designation remains on actual construction until final design plans are approved.

In late 2011, the Retail Demand Study found that 2/3 of all resident expenditures were made outside of Innisfil. It suggested that with further residential growth, it would present an “expenditure potential” of over $400 million by 2021. More than 5 years later, it appears that potential for local shopping will be difficult to realize for many more years to come. For the uninitiated, it’s difficult to understand what hurdles are preventing an obvious opportunity from being realized.

Stroud Centreville Gets Another Look

After two public meetings, a proposed development for the main street of Stroud gets another look on Wednesday, June 14 at Town Hall. In this revised plan:

  • the number of townhouses is reduced from 107 to 94 on a slightly smaller space
  • 12 single detached homes are proposed for the western boundary
  • the size of the commercial blocks is reduced slightly
  • the site includes a gas bar and convenience store

Centreville3

A proposal to include several floors of apartments over the commercial units was rejected by local residents at previous public meetings. The single detached homes (instead of townhouses) are intended to buffer the transition from existing residential homes to the new development.

I think this revised plan continues to miss the mark for good planning. Completely removing apartments above the commercial space is a mistake. It would have been wiser to include this mixed-use option to offer more housing options for all age groups. Younger and older Innisfil residents don’t necessarily want, or can afford, a single family home. A retired individual that I know who is planning to move from their home is forced to look in Barrie, Alliston and Midland because there are no suitable apartment options in Innisfil. The objections from Stroud residents to more housing options is unreasonable and puzzling. Including these residents in the development would also make Stroud livelier and more economically viable.

The site plan itself is sadly disappointing in offering yet another parking-lot laden strip mall. I hardly think that a tired and outdated approach to make Stroud look like 1960s Mississauga or contemporary Brampton should get any serious consideration at all. It flies in the face of all the urban planning discussions that have taken place in Innisfil in the last 10 years.

The Implementation Plan for Inspiring Innisfil 2020 (Feb. 2011) stated the following objectives:  Continue reading