With the announcement the city is looking at two new Western LRT route options I thought I would take a look at the New Orchard catchments. It is plainly in the city's interest to see intensification around LRT stations: less car commuting, more development charges, etc, etc. But you can't have intensification in established neighbourhoods without rezonings.
600m catchment areas for the north and south New Orchard station (based on my best guess). Click to embiggen.
So - what's the current zoning in the catchments? About half of the 600m catchment around the southern New Orchard station is currently zoned R2F Residential Second Density Zone, which allows nothing denser than duplexes. Residential zonings go all the way up to R5 which allows mid-highrises. Without getting into a discussion about whether intensifying this neighbourhood is a good idea or not, and assuming it is going to happen, how is the city going to manage it?
Current practice would say the city will do nothing. They will wait until individual properties put in development applications then approve them given the proximity to an LRT station. Neighbours will be predictably upset that R2 zoning (nothing denser than a duplex) they thought they lived next two is now an R4 or R5. The city can't say no at this point - an OMB appeal is obvious and would win. The city does have an Official Plan and Transportation Master Plan that says density around mass-transit stations is a goal.
So, my question to the city is, are you going to finally proactively rezone existing properties so they match the "after LRT" conditions?
There are opinions on all sides about where the LRT should go, and what is appropriate given the conditions on the ground. Those are all right and proper discussions to have.
My point today is - once it is all decided one way or the other - what is the city going to do? Be proactive or leave zonings ambiguous?
Because if the city leaves the zoning ambiguous (and this applies to all LRT catchments) they guarantee a few decades of surprises and angst in the "R2" community as existing and future residents are constantly put out by surprise spot rezonings. The constant stream of development applications will also be expensive in staff time, and for the developers (who just pass those costs onto our new neighbours).
Does anyone have an argument for why the land shouldn't be re-zoned in advance?
I think it should. For one reason, it's then Council (and indirectly us) who decide what that density should be. R4? R5? Something new and LRT specific? This is important because half the push-back from communities about LRT is all about what their own street, 400m away from the station, will look like in 25 years.
There will always be problems with any choice - but I would prefer the city make those choices than leave it up to a never ending series of spot rezonings.