A Parking Problem or a Driving Problem?

Streets in Ward 5 have a parking problem, there’s no doubt about it.  Essex Street is overwhelmed, and nearby overflow streets on Kent, Fountain, Surrey and Nottingham are just as crowded.  Why ?  Because they are within walking distance of downtown.   Fairview, Forbes, Vardon, James, Dean, all within walking distance to the University, are bumper to bumper all day, Monday to Friday.  Harvard, Yewholme and Rickson are also lined with cars, all within walking distance to the Research Park, OMAFRA and the University.


I first noticed this phenomenon about five years ago, but can honestly say it has grown into an unmanageable situation over the last 1-2 years.  Is it a lack of parking downtown or on campus?  It appears on the surface a simple answer, but that is not universally the case.  Daytime parking capacity exists, according to reports, in the downtown, in university lots and at the Research Park and OMAFRA.   All of these are paid lots.   It appears the drivers just simply would prefer to park for free.

Where does this leave residents?  They feel hostage, they cannot invite guests to their homes Monday to Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.  Their children are at risk, with bumper to bumper cars and no gaps.  No room for service or utility or delivery trucks to stop, so they stop in the middle of the street blocking traffic.  Snow and leaf pick-up are problematic, if not impossible.  In many cases, homeowners can’t even safely exit their own driveways due to the congestion and sight line obstruction.

Legally, the roadways are public and anyone can park (subject to posted street restrictions).  But it is getting ridiculous.  Is it a parking problem or a driving problem?  Is public transit an alternative to the hundreds of cars lining and blocking residential streets five days a week, 8 hours a day?

One solution is to create localized parking restrictions that will discourage the behaviour, such as a two-hour limit, or opposite side only parking.  Residents who want to pursue this option can contact me and I will forward your contact information to our Parking staff.  Beware, there are so many streets on the list for this type of relief, that it might take a while.   Another option is to educate the drivers who are clogging our neighbourhoods — flyers on windshields, more frequent enforcement, etc.  Will it work? Perhaps some drivers will succumb to their sense of community and splurge for a parking pass or try transit…and maybe not.  One thing for sure, it is getting worse and it is time for action.


High? Low? Slim? Wide?

I had a call from a constituent today about one of the Environics survey questions re: highrise buildings in Guelph. For those who don’t know, the city is conducting a survey on the many issues that Guelph is currently facing to feed into the upcoming Strategic Plan, ranging from taxes to recreation and everyting in between.

The specific question of concern is worded as follows:

“As the city continues to grow we need to make choices about the budget we allow. Some people think taller buildings of 7 to 18 storeys that allow more green space are better. Others think we should only have low-rise buildings – 1 to 6 storeys – even though it would cover more ground area. Which of these views is closest to your own?”

The caller felt that the question was too black and white — that the answer had to be “either/or” — and did not leave enough room for a fullsome response.

I agree.

In some locations, highrises might work. In other locations, a highrise is undesirable. Same with lowrise. In some locations, a lowrise would fit nicely and have plenty of greenspace. In others, a lowrise surrounded by asphalt is undesirable. Planning a city is not an either/or exercise. Seven stories is very different than 18 stories, with different impacts at different locations.

I have been fairly consistent in my preference for lowrise forms of development, but why does it have to be at the expense of greenspace?

Guelph must grow, and our downtown core will accommodate a significant percentage of that growth, with approximately 9,000 new residents by 2030. Highrises are not the only form of development to accommodate this new growth. In fact, it is my understanding through the modeling that has been done to date, that Guelph can accommodate this new growth with buildings under eight stories, through adaptive re-use of underutilized existing buildings, brownfield redevelopment and new construction.

I look forward to the results.

Guelph Tribune Article re: 716 Gordon Development

Scaled back high-rise plans likely: councillor

By DOUG HALLETT, Guelph Tribune
Jan 11, 2011

The proposal for two university student high-rises is likely to be changed significantly before council holds a final vote on the issue, says Coun. Leanne Piper.

The developer’s application for zoning and Official Plan changes goes to council’s Jan. 17 planning meeting. It could be altered later as a result of public feedback, said Piper, a Ward 5 councillor. Her ward is where the proposed 16- and 14-storey student high-rises would be built at the corner of Stone Road and Gordon Street. “I suspect that this application . . . may not be the final proposal that we see when it comes back for decision, based on the questions and the concerns and the input” heard by council during the public consultation phase, Piper said.

Until she sees a final proposal, Piper won’t be commenting on whether or not she supports it, she told the Tribune.

People living near the site, where a thre estorey hotel now sits, have formed the Mayfield Park Community Association to fight the developer’s application. The group holds its second big meeting tonight (Jan. 11) at 7 p.m. at Harcourt Memorial United Church.

“This is an unprecedented development with far-reaching implications” for the city, the association said in a news release Monday.

Piper said she has been getting “significant correspondence about this application, primarily because it brings up a lot of questions and issues that we haven’t had in this community since Places to Grow came about. This is a much more dense application than any other Places to Grow application we’ve had in the last few years.” Guelph is designated as a growth centre under the province’s Places to Grow legislation, which requires more intensification of development within built-up areas of affected cities.

The application from Mississauga-based developer Abode Varsity Living calls for a total of about 1,500 student bedrooms to be built in the two high-rises, within 341 apartment units each containing four or five bedrooms.

In addition to the density issues, Piper said, the application “also raises the debate whether or not students should be housed all in one location or integrated into the community.

“So that is a debate we should be having,” she said.

Randy Reimer, a spokesperson for the Mayfield Park Community Association, said the proposal for two high-rise student buildings “raises serious issues related to parking, shade, light pollution, privacy, traffic congestion, security, respect for property, vandalism, noise, litter and, last but not least, our property values.

“We would think that any increase in the tax base as a result of this development would, in the longer term, be offset by decreasing taxes as a result of decreased property values,” he said in an e-mail sent to Ward 5 councillors and to the media.



I have had a few questions from residents about why I would not publicly declare my opposition or support for this development application.  To clarify:  I do have many questions, concerns and opinions on aspects of this application.  However, it is never appropriate for a city councillor to form a final position until the planning process is over.    The “planning process” involves giving the applicant an opportunity to formally present the proposal to Council (coming up on January 17th) and then a period of feedback and consultation with the public, where many voices and arguments are heard for and against the proposal.   Until this process is complete, and until a final plan is brought back to Council, accompanied by a detailed planning analysis by professional city staff, it would be premature and irresponsible to state a position.   Feel free to contact me if you have questions or want to provide your feedback about this development application.  leanne.piper@guelph.ca or 519-822-1260 ext. 2295