Lessons From London

Earlier this week, a delegation from Guelph (consisting of myself, Mayor Farbridge, Councillor Wettstein, Jim Riddell, Director of Community Design and Development Services and Katie Nasswetter, senior development planner) traveled to London, Ontario to talk with local staff and politicians about implementation of their Near Campus Neighbourhoods strategy.   The goal was to learn from their mistakes and successes, and model what is working (and not working) in the rental housing by-law amendments that are being proposed for Guelph.

It was well worth the trip down the 401 from my perspective.  London released its Near Campus Neighbourhood strategy document in late 2009.  Copy can be downloaded from:  http://www.london.ca/d.aspx?s=/Planning/studentstrategy.htm

The implementation of a new “Residential Rental” licencing by-law came into effect just three short weeks ago on March 1, 2010.

Some of the lessons learned during this Q & A excursion:

  • get renters, neighbourhood groups, landlords, etc. on board early
  • keep emphasis focused on safety and neighbourhood stability, not on behavioural issues (there are other by-laws already dealing with this)
  • increase fines for non-compliance
  • clearly define what type and where appropriate forms of intensification belong
  • push density to transit-supportive locations
  • little tolerance for unlicensed properties ($125/day fine for not getting your license)
  • make licensing procedure easy to do for property owners/landlords and keep the fee reasonable
  • applications for variances that attempt to legalize an existing illegal rental will NOT be supported by city staff
  • licensing application is a self-registration process, but the city will randomly inspect 15% of the rental properties each year
  • property owners/landlords must provide a copy of their Residence Rental Licence to tenants
  • a “Residential Rental” is any building with 3 or more rental “units”.

Some of the above, Guelph is already doing or proposing.  That’s good news.   The rest is still to come…soon.

Rental Housing Reports and Background Information

Further to last evening’s Shared Rental Housing Open House, I have attached links below to some of the documents that were referenced during the discussion.

City of London Near-Campus Neighbourhood Strategy


City of Guelph Committee Report on Proposed Changes to Lodging House and Two-Unit Rentals


Background Reports on Shared Rental Housing and Lodging House Regulations


If you would like to see other reports posted here, just let me know.

Leanne Piper

Shared Rental Housing Open House

A public open house is scheduled for Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 7:00 pm to provide an opportunity for public education and dialogue re: shared rental housing.

Date:     THURSDAY, JANUARY 14, 2010

Location:    City Hall

Time:  7:00 pm

The format is a casual Open House.  There will be information displays and staff on site to answer questions.

To review background documentation:  http://guelph.ca/living.cfm?smocid=1886

Proposed Amendments to Lodging Housing & Two Unit Zoning By-Law

An update report seeking direction on changes to the Lodging House and Two-Unity House by-law is coming to the Community Design and Environmental Service committee on Monday, December 14 12:30 pm.

The report can be found on page 67 of the CDES committee agenda.  Download the agenda package at:



108 Forest Perspective

Preamble: Infill and intensification are widely-used buzz words these days. Places to Grow and the Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan (GGHGP) will put pressure on municipalities like Guelph to grow smarter. Terms like “mixed-use” and “walkable communities” are being used by planners and the development industry to describe desirable forms of growth. But it remains unclear — in Guelph at least — what that means on the ground. What does it look like and what impact will it have in established neighbourhoods? Like everything in life, there is good and bad in everything. There is good development and bad development. Such is the case with infill and intensification projects.

In the case of the proposed development of 108 Forest (former site of St. Pauls School), it is really important that we get this right. It is one of the first infill development proposals to come to Council since the GGHGP came to light.

The site developers (Dr. Doug Friars and Thomasfield Homes) have come forward with a plan that includes six medical offices, nine loft apartments and 12 stacked townhouses on a 1 hectare site.

View the proposal.

On the surface, it sounds great. It has the “mixed use” component, and provides a medium-density form of housing that adds diverse housing forms to the neighbourhood and helps to achieve intensification goals. What’s so wrong with that? Nothing really. Guelph needs more office space for medical doctors and more housing within walking distance to shopping, schools and ammenities.

So what’s the problem?

Each site is unique, and this proposal is specific to the 108 Forest property. So the question is whether or not this specific proposal fits on this specific property?

Good Points

To be honest, the proposal has some good points.

1. Both developers are local reputable chaps. Dr. Friars has been involved in developing medical offices in the past (Dawson Road). Thomasfield Homes (Tom Kriszan) is a quality builder with an excellent reputation.

2. They’ve assembled a good team – architect Lloyd Grinham, planning consultant Nancy Shoemaker and engineer Chris Sims are all tops in their field and have done many quality infill projects in Guelph in the past.

3. The site has two mature elms that have been spared in the plan.

4. Medium density housing adds a new mix to the neighbourhood – which is mostly single family detached and large apartment building complexes.

So What’s the Bad News?

1. The school additions are overdone – a parking garage and two floors on top. Technically, the top level is one-and-a-half story lofts, but the visual effect will be three stories from ground level. The apartment entrances and another second parking garage will be on the eastern property line where the neighbouring home owner will be negatively impacted. The windows of the proposed apartments will look into the backyard, which contains a pool.

2. The term “medium density” does not equal affordable housing. Each unit will be more than 2000 sq ft with a projected selling price in the $450K range. This is not the type of infill and intensification that the GGHGP encourages. Granted, there is a market for retirement housing within the community as the population ages and that’s fine – but let’s just not pretend this proposal contains affordable housing for seniors.

3. Second and third floor balconies on the townhouse units will overlook existing private backyards.

4. The site needs severe grading. Retaining walls will not be small landscape features – there will be extreme grade changes and 8 ft high walls in some places.

5. Office uses within a residential street is precedent setting. The city’s official plan prescribes mixed-use commercial and office uses on arterial and collector roads. Forest Street is neither. The fact that it’s only five houses away from an arterial road is not a valid argument. There is a complete mixed-use node less than a block away that is ripe for intensification. The Edinburgh-Municipal node should be intensified in order to accommodate additional needed office space.

6. The neighbourhood is already mixed-use. Within a 5-10 minute walk: beer store, convenience store, hair salon, gas station, vet clinic, doctors office, optometrists, restaurants, fitness centre, and much more.

7.  Streetscape.  There is none.  The view from the street is a parking garage.  The development turns its back on the community and does not integrate with existing streetscape or complement the park across the street.  This is an urban design issue.

Is there a solution?

I think so. Let’s avoid going to the OMB. In my opinion, we can do better with some compromise from both sides….

* How about 21-24 smaller medium density units?

* How about the one-story school building retrofitted as apartments, with medium density townhouses all around?

* How about live-work studios or loft apartments in the school building?

* How about senior’s flats in the school building and smaller retirement townhouse blocks?

* How about removing the parking garage from the front of the building and making a streetscape entrance?

* Other ideas?

As with all issues, I am interested in hearing what others are thinking? Can we do better on this site? Share you ideas…


Welcome Students

Yes, it’s that time of year again. University of Guelph is welcoming new and returning students back to Guelph this weekend. Gordon Street (between Stone and College) will be closed Sunday, September 2, for the move-in mayhem.

Each year, Ward 5 (and the city) welcomes students into our neighbourhoods. In most cases, students add vibrancy and diversity to our community. They work, study, shop, volunteer and enjoy life as a resident of our city. However, some individuals have not yet learned the essential lifeskill of being a good neighbour. This is an ongoing challenge.

There are several things that we can do as a community to overcome these challenges.

An excellent resource for those with ongoing issues is the University of Guelph Neighbourhood Relations Co-ordinator. Her name is Kathryn Hofer and she has a great deal of experience in mediation and community development. Kathryn can help student tenants deal with landlord and safety issues, but is also a great resource to long-time residents in dealing with difficult housing problems. Call Kathryn at (519) 824-4120 ext. 56276.

In addition, the City of Guelph has a number of by-laws to protect the safety and security of residents and students.

Property Standards – no furniture on lawns, garbage, property maintenance, etc. If you have concerns about the condition of a property, call (519) 837-5615 or email building@guelph.ca

Shared Rental Housing – no more than 4 unrelated persons per detached household unit. Accessory apartments are limited to 2 bedrooms.  Any dwelling exceeding this limit (5 or more unrelated persons) is classified as a Lodging House.  Lodging Houses need to be certified by the City of Guelph.  No certified lodging house can be 100m from another lodging house. If you suspect an illegal lodging house on your street, call our Zoning and Building department at (519) 837-5615 or email building@guelph.ca. They will inspect to ensure compliance – this is for student safety as well. A complete copy of the Shared Rental Housing Regulation can be found at http://guelph.ca/living.cfm?subCatID=1303&smocid=1886

Noise By-Law – Courtesy and respect should be shown at all times even during the day, when shift workers may be sleeping. Guelph Police Services enforces the noise by-law – call (519) 824-1212 for enforcement if you experience excessive noise. It is sometimes preferable as a neighbour to be approached personally first, but if you suspect a hostile confrontation, better to call the Police Services.
Of course, you are also welcome to call me to help with your student housing concerns at any time – (519) 824-9000 or email leanne.piper@guelph.ca