Shared Rental Housing Report Available Online

The long-awaited zoning amendment report on Shared Rental Housing is available on the city website at:

http://www.guelph.ca/uploads/Council_and_Committees/Council/2006/council_agenda_080310.pdf

Note:  the Shared Rental Housing report begins on page 15.

This report will go as an Information Report to Council on Tuesday, August 3rd.  Delegations will be heard, and public input will continue to be received prior to a decision being made on Monday, August 30th. 

Why is this on the Council Planning Agenda?

The proposed regulations fall under the city Zoning By-law.  Zoning is one tool that municipalities can use to regulate land use.  Enforcement of by-laws (noise, property standards, parking, etc.) is also important.  As well, licensing of rental housing is proposed as the next phase (Spring 2011) to ensure compliance.

Anyone wishing input into the Shared Rental Housing Zoning By-law amendment can submit comments in writing to clerks@guelph.ca or c/o Clerks Office at 1 Carden Street, Guelph, ON.  You can also register as a delegation to speak at the Council meeting on August 3 or 30th. 

LP

Property Rights – Yours, Mine and Ours

Several years ago, when I was a Community Editorial Board columnist with the Guelph Mercury, I published a column examining the issue of property rights. The column was in the context of property owners having the right to demolish heritage buildings.   How do we define the line that is crossed when individual rights and the public good are in conflict?

The discussion is relevant again in the context of a proposed tree by-law in the City of Guelph, so I will repost some of the original column here.

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“It’s no accident that private property rights are not part of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Such rights were specifically rejected by the Special Joint Committee on the Constitution because the exercise of those rights could interfere with, or be found in opposition to, the public interest.

Section 7 of the Charter, gives us the “right to life, liberty and security of the person”. The Charter protects freedom of religion, free speech, freedom of movement, and many other freedoms that relate to Canadian values. We have the right to own property and the right to enjoyment of that property.  But when it comes to  rights related to property ownership – there is no “right to profit” or “right to do anything I want”.

Let’s be fair, as a property owner, I do want some rights. But so does my neighbour.  He has a right to enjoyment of his property – he can build a fence, create a garden, sit on his deck, build a pool and a whole lot of other things that I may or may not like. The limitations of those rights are set out very clearly in established zoning and property standards by-laws. I have those same rights, as does every property owner in the city.

If my neighbours property rights infringe on my property rights, we have a problem. If my neighbours pursuit of enjoyment of his property is a risk to public safety or health , we also have a problem. That’s where community standards and public interest come in. Public interest must always trump private benefit.

How do we judge what is in the public interest? Thankfully, we have very clear documents and by-laws about what our community values are to help us assess what is in the public interest. We have our Strategic Plan and another nifty little document called the Official Plan. It is very much like the City of Guelph Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It’s filled with really strong statements about what our community values. According to the Official Plan, we value environmental stewardship, heritage protection, high-quality architecture, cultural and social diversity and strong neighbourhood character.

Protection of private property rights is not mentioned as a community objective in the Official Plan.  Nor should it be.  It’s not in the Strategic Plan either.

Since when is it the role of a municipal councillor to advocate for private property rights? It should be the complete opposite. The purpose of municipal government is to make decisions based on community values and public interest. The Council Code of Ethics specifically states that members of Council must “recognize that the chief function of municipal government at all times is to serve the best interests of all the people.”

Protection of property rights – for individuals or corporations – should therefore not be part of the debating vocabulary of any city councillor.

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The intent of the tree by-law is to preserve the urban canopy for the greater public interest — air quality, soil erosion, energy conservation, decreased urban “heat island” effect, wildlife habitat, quality of life, aesthetics, etc.  If we collectively agree there is good reason to have a healthy urban forest, then we collectively bear responsibility to preserve it.

Proposed Tree By-Law Update

I have received several inquiries about the status of the “Private Tree By-Law” that was presented to the Community Design and Environmental Services committee this past Monday.    I am happy to try to add some clarity….

The Tree By-Law report can be viewed HERE (starts on page 22)….

The recommendation in the Tree By-Law report contained 5 clauses.  Clauses 1, 2 and 4 were moved and seconded and supported unanimously.  These three  clauses were to:  a) receive the report,  b) approve amendments to the existing large lot tree preservation by-law and c) amend the user fee schedule to implement the amended large lot tree by-law.

Clauses 3 and 5 were to:  a) enact a tree by-law for small lots (less than 0.2 hectares) and b) to bring forward a plan to fund implementation of the by-law in the 2011 budget.

Clauses 3 and 5 were not moved or seconded by any member of the committee (as Chair, I cannot move or second motions).

Therefore, the committee (including myself)  did not vote “against” or to “remove” anything.  A Guelph Mercury article is quoted as saying that the committee “voted to remove the provisions of the private tree bylaw dealing with regulated trees on small lot sizes”.  This is not accurate – because the small lot tree by-law never made it to the floor to be voted on.

So where does this leave the small lot Tree By-law? Only the motions ratified at committee (Clause 1,2 and 4) will go forward to Council on July 27.  However, at that meeting, any member of Council could choose to add Clauses 3 and 5 back in, or add them in as separate motions.

In the past, I have publicly stated that I support the protection and preservation of our urban canopy. I still do.

But there are many ways to do this – the small lot private tree by-law is not the be-all-and-end-all — it is one potential tool of many.

The city must “walk the talk”  too – planting more trees on public land, better maintenance practices, increased naturalized areas, etc.  I also believe the majority of residential property owners understand the benefits of planting and maintaining trees and are excellent stewards of the urban forest.

The goal behind the tree by-law has merit — to increase the city’s canopy to 40%.    A healthy urban forest has immense public benefit – air quality, temperature regulation, energy use reduction, etc.

So the question remains — does the proposed small lot tree by-law do anything to help the city reach its  stated outcome of 40% canopy?    Is it too much “stick” and not enough “carrot”?  Are there better ways to achieve the 40% goal,  such as education, tree planting incentives,  free trees, etc.?      Should we focus more effort on those areas with 10% coverage like industrial and commercial lands (ie. parking lots, my personal pet peeve) ?  Residential neighbourhoods are not the problem.  I suspect the canopy in R1 (small lots) residential neighbourhoods is well over 50%.    (I am working on getting additional info on this. )

It’s still a year away, but the Strategic Urban Forest Master Plan will answer many of these questions.  Many municipalities have stronger tree preservation by-laws than the proposed Guelph one.  Many municipalities have no tree preservation by-laws.  Are we not doing enough or going too far?

I welcome your thoughts, as always…..

LP

Staying Cool in Guelph — Extended Hours for Splash Pads and Wading Pools

GUELPH, ON, July 6, 2010 – As a result of the hot temperatures this week, the City of Guelph has extended the hours at wading pools and splash pads and opened the Sleeman Centre to help residents cool off.

Extended hours are as follows:

Sleeman Centre: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Wading pools: 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
Splash pads: Norm Jary: Wednesday 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. & Thursday 9 a.m.- 8:30 p.m.
Hanlon Creek: Wednesday 9 a.m.-8:30 p.m. & Thursday 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
West End Community Centre: Wednesday & Thursday 9 a.m.-8:30 p.m.

Residents are reminded that Guelph’s community centres are also great places to keep cool. Community Centre hours are as follows:

Evergreen Seniors Community Centre: Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
West End Community Centre: Monday to Friday 6 a.m.-11 p.m. & Saturdays and Sundays 6 a.m.-5 p.m.
Victoria Road Recreation Centre: Wednesday 2-5 p.m. & Thursday 2-4 p.m. for public swims
Lyons Pool: 10 a.m.–12 noon, 1–4 p.m., 5–8 p.m.
Centennial Pool: 1–4 p.m. for public swims

Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health advises people to stay out of the sun, drink lots of water, limit outdoor activity to morning and evening hours and stay in air conditioned places. Seniors and young children are particularly at risk during heat and smog-related weather conditions. Residents are encouraged to call or visit family, friends and neighbours to make sure they are okay, especially isolated adults and seniors, who are at greater risk of suffering from heat-related illness.

Environment Canada expects the hot, hazy and humid conditions to continue today through Thursday. For more information on heat safety, visit Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health.