New RM-9A Zone
Comment Made to City of Vancouver on the Proposed Zone and Design Guidelines for the Norquay Village Transition Area (RM-9A), Presented at an Open House on 23 September 2015
28 September 2015
The proposed new zoning regulations accord with the Norquay Village Apartment Transition Area Rezoning Policy of 2013 in the following ways:
• Maximum height is l3.7 m / 45 ft
• Minimum frontage is 15.2 m / 50 ft
• Front, rear, and side yard setbacks have not changed (although more discretion is allowed
• Building setbacks have changed slightly
• Courtyard width has been reduced by more than 10% — from 9.1 m / 30 ft to 8 m / 26 ft
• FSR remains the same
• Unit density remains the same for apartment buildings
• Parking is underground [with new clarification: at least one parking space per unit must be provided]
• Amenity contribution is $162 per sq m / $15 per sq ft
In these respects the proposed zoning for the most part implements the spirit and intent of the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan of 2010.
However, one major change raises great concern. The proposed zoning regulations would allow multiple stacked townhouses to be built on sites larger than 7212 square feet. This area is equivalent to two 33 x 110 ft. lots. The change would make it possible to build stacked townhouses in most of the RM-9A zone. Under the Transition Area Rezoning Policy, only a single 4-storey apartment building has been possible on any site in this zone.
Stacked townhouses should not be permitted in the RM-9A zone for the following reasons:
1 — To allow stacked townhouses in this zone would reduce housing options in Norquay instead of increasing them. The design guidelines for apartments in this zone result in units with desirable features. The “alphabet-shaped” buildings have front or rear courtyards and more than four corners. Consequently the larger units have multiple exposures to encourage natural light and ventilation. They offer a very attractive option to many people.
The RM-9A zone is the only place in Norquay where 4-storey apartments can be built on residential streets. The far larger rowhouse/stacked townhouse zone (RM-7) already allows for enough of the stacked townhouse form. Developers are building many stacked townhouses in the RM-7 zone (14 proposals since 2013), but very few rowhouses (1 proposal since 2013). A similar outcome for the RM-9A zone would seriously compromise the design of the Norquay Plan. It seems likely that developers will be tempted to avoid the cost of an elevator by building stacked townhouses, even though the allowable density is less.
2 — Stacked townhouses will not be accessible to people with mobility issues — seniors, persons with disabilities, young children and others. There is no elevator in stacked townhouses, only multiple flights of stairs. The Norquay Plan (p. 6) claims as a foundation the CityPlan direction
To increase neighbourhood housing variety, so that people will have more opportunities
to live in neighbourhoods at various ages and stages in their lives.
In addition, concern for appropriate seniors housing was expressed repeatedly during the 2009 Norquay process. Seniors who downsize from single-family homes are supposed to be able to “age in place.” Many of them would like to continue to live on one of Norquay’s residential streets rather than in a tower on Kingsway. They will not be able to do this in buildings without elevators.
3 — Developers should not need further incentives to initiate new construction in the new RM-9A zone. Most small developers have not been prepared or willing to go through the expensive and time-consuming rezoning process required by the Rezoning Policy. Even so, three proposals for apartment buildings in this zone have already been made public within the past 18 months (one formal application and two pre-application open houses). Taken together, these three projects propose to redevelop 10 properties out of approximately 250 — a rate of 4%. According to developer representatives, Norquay can expect an increase in the number of proposals when the RM-9A District Schedule and Guidelines replace the Rezoning Policy, even if the only building form allowed is 4-storey apartments.
Jeanette and Joseph Jones