Detailed Comment #3 on Norquay Rezoning Specifications
The Apartment Transition Zone was presented at the January 2013 Norquay open houses on a single Panel 9. The first thing to notice is that this zoning proposal is presented as a policy — and not as the district schedule called for and outlined in the 2010 Norquay Plan [Appendix A, Page 21 of 40].
The 2010 report to Council on the Norquay Plan offered this description:
This zone applies to the lots across the rear lane from properties fronting Kingsway. The Transition zone enables low-rise apartments (three to four storeys) that provide a physical transition from mid-rise buildings on Kingsway to the ground-oriented housing types in the residential neighbourhood and provides a more affordable housing option than the ground-oriented types.
This policy-only status induces anxiety. A regime of “creep” has already damaged trust in Norquay. Creep seems to view nothing as ever settled — that is, nothing except for the increased FSRs and heights that accrue to developers as a base “right” only to be expanded on. In part, this present failure to produce the district schedule seems to reflect political desire to enforce crude mass rezoning on a large area, but without any willingness to supply the resources necessary to do the work of completing the planning.
The primary question for this new housing type is this: To what extent can any of the detail, especially FSR and height, be regarded as more than a launch pad for further backroom “negotiation” between city staff and developers?. In other words, can Norquay residents anticipate any certainty on this front? This is the time to recall the recent crass speculation on this Norquay housing type fostered by a real estate agent.
Two Main Concerns
Much of the detail presented in open house Panel 9 seems acceptable and in conformity with the 2010 Norquay Plan. It is to be hoped that the “high standards of quality, character, landscape, and neighbourhood fit” asserted in the 2010 Plan are fully implied in open house Panel 9’s far fuzzier one-word mentions of “compatible” and “sustainable.”
The first and most important concern is over the possibility that this building form might be allowed on a single parcel having frontage of as little as 50 feet. The 2010 Norquay Plan left a blank for “minimum site sizes.” The specification of underground parking that is provided on Panel 9 for all instances of this housing type is crucial. That vague specification needs to be quantified at a minimum of one space per separate unit.
A second concern is that distribution of size across dwelling units appears to have become vaguer in Panel 9. The specificity of the following condition, quoted here from the 2010 Norquay Plan, needs to be made explicit and carried forward:
Units for Families. Any new low-rise apartment development within the transition zone
should be required to provide 3-bedroom units for a minimum of 50 percent of the total unit count.
There are approximately 210 separate lots designated for Apartment Transition in the mapping of Norquay zones. During the numerous meetings of 2009, members of the Norquay Working Group were given to understand that land assembly of at least three lots would be presupposed, in order to achieve the design interest and functionality of the proposed U and H footprints. In the interests of effective transition and public realm enhancement, block-shaped buildings on a single parcel must be strongly discouraged if not prohibited outright. Underground parking must be specified at a minimum of one space per unit. Access to underground parking for transition dwelling units must be limited to rear laneways adjacent to Kingway. Any curb cuts across sidewalks to provide vehicle access from the front of these buildings would be a smack in the face to the residential neighborhoods that are supposed to be transitioned toward.