City of St. Catharines Proposes Significant Changes to Infill Development Standards

st. catharines infilling stoppedThe City Of St. Catharines is looking at updating its infill development bylaws and has set out a series of new proposals that is now under review by city council.

Being a city that is surrounded on three sides by Greenbelt, and of course Lake Ontario, creates limited growth opportunity here in our community. By some expert standards, we have about nine years left of developing land. Under the smart growth strategy that a lot of communities are seeing, infilling in recent years has intensified.

The Backstory

Many residents have been complaining for some time that certain infill development do not fit in within their community. Privacy has been lost, and the integrity and quality of living has gone down as a result of cheap and ugly homes being built.

The City decided at the beginning of 2017 to put a freeze on all infilling severances and review the current policy. After reviewing these policies, City staff have released over 30 recommendations to be reviewed.

Significant Recommendations

One of the more significant recommendations surrounded the standard size of yards. The two main points they are suggesting are increasing the standard side of the front yards, and the standard size of the side yard.

The city is suggesting that the interior side yard between houses become 6.5ft as a standard for homes over the height of 4.5m. Another suggestion is to increase the standard size of the lot. A lot of a single dwelling, detached 2 story , would be increased from 50ft to 55ft.

In summary of the 33-page report these additional recommendations are being made:

  • decrease building height limits;
  • increase lot width and building setback requirements; 

  • increase the maximum lot area requirement for detached dwelling in the R1 zone;
  • require front and exterior side yards based on ‘averaging’ of existing yard 
setbacks with abutting properties; 

  • change building setback requirement for multi-unit development on corner lots;
  • increase open space landscape requirements;
  • establish total lot coverage provisions. 

A proposed amendment to Committee of Adjustment procedures and related protocols includes:

  • increase application notice timelines; 

  • simplify notice format to remove ‘legalese’ and improve notice signage while 
maintaining required notice information prescribed by the Planning Act; 

  • expand complete application requirements to include development concept 
plans in relation to lot creation proposals;
  • enhance application review procedures through the Design Review Panel;
  • establish notification measures to better inform the public with respect to 
submission of development applications including enhanced public engagement measures.

Why This is Important

These proposals should be important to every developer and residents.  These increases don’t seem like much at a first glance, but the amount of homes that can be developed in the area drops significantly. With decreasing opportunities for growth in the city already, if this proposal is approved, the nine years of developing land that the city has left gets even lower.

Yet, as home owners, none us want bad infilling projects on our street.

This will be interesting to follow.