Councillors grapple with lack of green space in proposed rental housing development


While Huntsville is in dire need of more rental housing, some planning committee members were not too keen on the lot density and lack of green space of a proposed eightplex that came before them on Aug. 15.

“I get very frustrated with applications like this,” said Huntsville Councillor Bob Stone. “Just because you can fill a property with pavement and roofed area with no real place for the families to play… it doesn’t make sense for a good life in Huntsville and putting a couple of trees out front does not cut it for me. I would not be in favour of this.”

The application was brought before committee for information purposes only.  The developer plans to merge two lots on Hilltop Drive in order to build an eightplex, which would add another eight, two-bedroom units to Huntsville’s rental market.

The lots were zoned for a fourplex, but the new owner is requesting that the municipality grant him a zoning amendment to bring the number of units up to eight. Four would be located on the main level of the building and another four on the second storey of the building, which will have a footprint of roughly 3,200 square feet.

By merging the two lots at 8 and 10 Hilltop Drive, the newly created lot would comprise roughly 1,205 square metres (or 0.12 hectares) with 30 metres of road frontage. But because the maximum density allowed for multiple dwellings is 60 units per hectare, it would work out to seven rather than the eight units proposed. To compensate for that additional unit staff are recommending the municipality and applicant enter into a bonusing agreement, which essentially means the developer offers something in return to the benefit of the community.  In this instance, the developer is offering to make all four of the bottom units fully accessible.

The applicant’s planning representative, John Gallagher, noted that not only is Huntsville lacking rental units, but the community needs more accessible ones.

Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano asked what guarantees the municipality would have that the units at the bottom would be rented to those with accessibility issues. None, she was told, as the municipality has no jurisdiction over who a landlord rents to. Committee chair Nancy Alcock also noted that elderly residents would benefit from such units.

The applicant is also seeking a series of setback exemptions in order to meet requirements such as parking. The exemptions would include a request to reduce the rear lot setback from 10 to six metres; a reduction of the front lot buffer from three to 2.6 metres and a reduction in the side yard setback for a balcony from 1.5 to one metre.

Preliminary sketch of the building being proposed.

Alcock questioned where children would play if the upper two-bedroom units were geared to families. Gallagher said staff has requested balconies to add to the passive amenities space of the development. He also said there is a school yard close by, with a significant amount of playground equipment.

“With apartment buildings, because the standards for parking and everything else are so high, it sort of sets itself up for not allowing a lot of green space. I don’t know whether it’s a problem with your zoning bylaw or the fact that we don’t have high-rise residential rental units because with the high rise and the elevators, you can keep your footprint even smaller and provide some more green space outside,” he said. “We’ve seen other residential development around the corner here where kids will find the closest park and there is some room in the backyard, albeit it’s not as large as a school yard, but there is room there.”

Letters of objection were received from nearby residents. Their concerns included privacy, runoff, a mature tree bordering the lot lines, and a question as to whether there’s a fire hydrant nearby.

Gallagher told committee that there is a fire hydrant in close proximity to the proposed development and assured committee that the development would include storm water and landscaping plans.

Committee heard that staff will meet with the applicant to address parking requirements, the concerns raised by neighbours, and to determine whether a rezoning of the property, rather than an amendment to the existing zoning, might be in order.

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  1. Simply put….this is wrong. TOO BIG – TOO CRAMMED – . This lot would suit a 4plex nicely with buffer area’s , lots of parking , an area for a lawn , kids area , storage etc…..if they let this happen on this lot, every owner of a small lot on every small road in town will use this example to push the boundaries over the edge….slippery slope here….all eyes and ears on this one…….look at the neighboring properties 4 OF THEM – and then look at that sketch ….if you like to be on the back deck of your home and shake hands with a second level tenant , this is the place for you .ASININE.

    • Good comments all, Jamie: maybe it’s time to rotate a real estate agent through Planning Committee. The inference that balconies add to play space is particularly precious. What games can you play on balconies that are not incredibly dangerous. And although the carrot of 4 accessible units is freely offered, there are only 2 accessible parking spaces. Entirely too much money has found its way into the Town “slush fund” in lieu of green space. Ostensibly, it goes to green space elsewhere, but this reader has yet to discover it.

  2. Seems very similar to the one on Highview where the town has ok’d the development using non town owned, non developer owned Conservation Lands as the green space for 5 building massive complex. Too dense. Too narrow a road. Water shed study in question.

  3. No green space? Dont allow this. Set an example Huntsville. And yes there is a school yard close by but no sidewalks. No safe place to cross road!

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