We are very pleased that one of our residents has followed the RIENS process and has written this articulate explanation. This planning process affects all of us so please read the article and follow the links.
The RIENS (Residential Intensification in Existing Neighbourhoods Study) has now been endorsed by the City at the Kitchener CIty Council meeting on Monday, March 20th. If you have not been following the progress of this initiative you should as it has a direct impact on our neighbourhoods.
We are all aware that due to the Places to Grow legislation it is becoming more and more important that we intensify our inner cities rather than expanding into the countryside. We also know that the LRT construction and the changes to areas surrounding LRT are making it more and more attractive to live in the core. Our Mount Hope - Breithaupt Park neighbourhood is highly desirable on both fronts. More and more people now want to live in our neighbourhood not only because of the wonderful look and feel of heritage houses but because we are now within walking distance of a newly evolving downtown with bars, restaurants, cultural events and employment opportunities. In the coming years we can expect that single family dwellings will be torn down and replaced by multi-family homes, that newcomers to the neighbourhoods will buy properties and build additions and that developers will buy up vacant properties and build larger homes than currently exist in the neighbourhood.
The City of Kitchener has been extremely proactive in anticipating that this flight to the core may have an impact on existing neighbourhoods and decided to hire an outside consultant to work with City staff to ensure that the influx did not have an adverse impact on our neighbourhood (as well as the Vanier neighbourhood which is also adjacent to the LRT line). And thus, the RIENS project was borne. Although City Council has endorsed the RIENS recommendations and will implement these recommendations it will take up to 12 or 18 months to have the recommendations implemented by the Planning Department.
It should be noted that some members of Council felt that the initial recommendations of the project were too restrictive and there should be some leeway on the planning guidelines. They were particularly concerned about the front yard setback (distance from the street in line with other houses on the street) and the height of new builds or additions (currently the height allowed is 10.5 m versus the recommended 8.5 m – this is essentially the difference of a 2 storey with a peak roof versus a 3 storey with a peaked roof). The height restriction was one of the most debated points during the process (e.g. how does the new building or addition impact the adjacent neighbours?). Ultimately, Council approved the 8.5 metre restriction where there are bungalows on the adjacent two properties. Otherwise the 10.5 metre restriction applies -- so if the two houses adjacent to the property are two storey homes, 10.5 metres would be the rule.
The other point of contention throughout the process was the look and feel of new development and does it fit into the character of the streetscape? is this a neighbourhood with front porches, is this a street with two story brick houses, is this a street with bungalows or 1 ½ story houses and should the new build or addition mimic the existing houses on the street?
As a residents in Mt. Hope/Breithaupt we need to monitor the Committee of Adjustment notices in the newspaper so that we can keep track of the development plans in our neighbourhoods. In future, it won't be as important to subscribe to the paper to get this information as the City will require the developer to post a notice on the actual property. If you feel proposed development does not meet the neighbourhood character you can raise your concerns with the developer (the proposed development does not fit into the look and feel of the neighbourhood) or appeal to the Committee of Adjustment as is the current procedure.
Here is the entire report to Council by the Planning Department which outlines all the recommendations ….