Are upzoning infills changing the face of our older Stittsville neighbourhoods?

(An Infill Project in Ottawa between two older homes. Photo – City of Ottawa)

The City of Ottawa is currently reforming their longstanding residential zoning policies under the Urban Design Guidelines for Low-rise Infill Housing that were previously approved in 2012. A review of these Guidelines is required to ensure that they are consistent with the New Official Plan changes and directions; and, follow recent best practices in Ottawa and other municipalities across Canada.

This review is being divided into two phases. Phase I, a housekeeping update, will be the first phase of the project, which includes minor restructuring and text edits to align the current guidelines with the New Official Plan. The amended guidelines would remain in effect until such time as Phase II, a fulsome review and update to the guidelines are adopted in 2023 following the anticipated Ministerial approval of the New Official Plan.

The housing affordability crisis may be addressed – ‘upzone just a little’ it seems is dictating the most political momentum and rapidly becoming the approach to deal with the issue of affordability’s inclusion in residential zoning policies. In Ottawa, specific neighbourhoods have been chosen to upzone an area with new high-density housing, such as around transit stations and main roadways.

However, will this allow the push for some version of duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes or higher buildings on our residential lots, especially where older Stittsville homes stand on larger lots – or on existing vacant lots in close proximity to older neighbourhoods?

A prime example of this would be the proposed dramatic three nine-storied towers at 6310 Hazeldean Road to be located on a vacant lot that backs onto the Crossing Bridge neighbourhood. An upzoned proposal causing much consternation for residents in the immediate area.

The Hazeldean Road proposal would now be absorbing all the development pressure from a much larger region around it that has not been upzoned. This could possibly evolve into a construction frenzy on nearby properties, with those property owners not only selling to apartment developers, but others holding out for a similar deal, driving prices up to an incredible level. These types of developments are well-reported in many cities across the country.

Stittsville residents have seen in-fills slowly encroaching in some of our older neighbourhoods – one house lot severed to become two house lots. Concerned with the fact that the Urban Design Guidelines for Low-rise Infill Housing is being reformed and the possibility for even more in-fill development to come, Stittsville Central reached out to Councillor Gower for his comments on the issue.

The Councillor shared, “having more rules around infill design will certainly help – but worth noting this report only applies for developments that have four or more units. That’s not something we’re seeing yet in Stittsville – usually we’re seeing more basic subdivision of one large lot into two smaller lots, and single homes built on each lot”.

“Currently the rules inside and outside the greenbelt are different. Historically much more infill has happened in older neighbourhoods in the centre of Ottawa, and we’re just starting to see that kind of development starting in the suburbs. So this review and update will give more direction to areas like Stittsville and help ensure preservation of soft landscaping, ensure proper setbacks from the property line, etcetera,” Councillor Gower stated.

The second phase of the review project will focus on a fulsome guidelines update in alignment with the City’s proposed zoning strategy and New Official Plan. It will look at all relevant low-rise built form typologies city wide and focus on providing updated and relevant design guidance to address key challenges associated with low-rise infill development. This phase of the project will also include the engagement of key internal and external stakeholders – consisting of low-rise industry professionals, representatives from GOHBA, representatives from the Federation of Community Associations, Greenspace Ottawa, Alliance to End Homelessness and Walkable Ottawa – in a broader review and fulsome update of the guidelines. This would also include online presence of the project and an open house in Q1 2023.

The Planning, Real Estate and Economic Development (PRED) will be the lead in the proposed engagement sessions and are responsible for implementation of the overall strategy. Councillors will be briefed prior to Phase II moving forward to Committee and Council.

The 2012 Urban Design Guidelines for Low-rise Infill Housing can be found at this link.


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