Council votes to relax rules for residential zoning, parking

Brandon City Council voted 9-2 on Monday in favour of modifying residential zoning rules to be more permissive of multiplexes and reducing parking requirements for new builds.

The two councillors voting against the changes to the city’s zoning bylaw were Coun. Shawn Berry (Ward 7), who said he didn’t like that the changes would reduce opportunities for residents to challenge developments at public hearings, and Coun. Greg Hildebrand (Ward 5), who said he thought the city was moving too quickly.

The measures are part of the city’s application to the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund, from which Brandon has already received around $1.5 million and stands to receive a total of $6.2 million if certain targets are met.


Brandon City Council votes on changes to the city's zoning bylaw on Tuesday that will eliminate public hearings for the construction of triplexes and fourplexes in some circumstances along with other changes. Only councillors Shawn Berry (Ward 7) and Greg Hildebrand (Ward 5) voted against the changes. (Colin Slark/The Brandon Sun)
Brandon City Council votes on changes to the city’s zoning bylaw on Tuesday that will eliminate public hearings for the construction of triplexes and fourplexes in some circumstances along with other changes. Only councillors Shawn Berry (Ward 7) and Greg Hildebrand (Ward 5) voted against the changes. (Colin Slark/The Brandon Sun)

Several options for residential zoning and parking were presented to councillors.

Ultimately, they chose the most permissive route for zoning and a medium option for parking.

For zoning, single-detached and low-density residential zones have been combined into a single zone where triplexes or fourplexes can be built on the interior of a block without the city’s planning commission needing to hold a public hearing.

Parking requirements for multi-unit homes have been reduced to be the same as those for detached and semi-detached dwellings, which is one space per unit. This was the approach recommended by city staff.

The most extreme option had been for parking requirements to be eliminated entirely, with developers deciding how many spaces they needed to build. The least impactful change proposed would have only reduced parking requirements for affordable and supportive housing.

Coun. Tyson Tame (Ward 10), a real-estate agent and resident of a half-duplex, expressed support for the most permissive zoning changes.

He cited statistics provided by city staff showing that 79 per cent of building permits issued by Brandon for housing are for multi-unit developments and only 21 per cent for single-family homes.

“Our current zoning has half of the city, 50 per cent, zoned for single-family,” Tame said. “From a simple economics perspective, supply and demand are not balanced.”

At the last council meeting on June 18, Berry asked if the already-built parts of the Brookwood neighbourhood in his ward could be exempted from the new zoning rules, arguing it was unfair to change the rules on a development already underway.

Tame pointed out that public hearings are still required for triplexes and fourplexes on the inside of blocks where there are no back lanes and that newer neighbourhoods like Brookwood were not built with back lanes.

Berry said Monday that the discussion was no longer about just certain parts of the city for him anymore.

“The one thing with the inclusionary zoning that has never sat well with me right from the get-go is the fact that we are taking people’s voices away to object to something,” Berry said.

“By taking (option) No. 1, you are taking people’s voices away anywhere in the city … People need to have the right, that if something’s going on in their neighbourhood, to have a say — whether it’s an objection or opening the welcome mat to people or different types of housing or development, so be it. But let them have a say. If Brandon is so inclusive and open to this type of thing, this isn’t going to be an issue.”


Ward 7 Coun. Shawn Berry (left) and Ward 10 Coun. Tyson Tame (right) were on opposite sides of the debate over proposed changes to the city's zoning bylaws on Tuesday. Berry said he didn't want residents to lose their say by eliminating some types of public hearings while Tame said the changes would give voice to those without homes. (Colin Slark/The Brandon Sun)
Ward 7 Coun. Shawn Berry (left) and Ward 10 Coun. Tyson Tame (right) were on opposite sides of the debate over proposed changes to the city’s zoning bylaws on Tuesday. Berry said he didn’t want residents to lose their say by eliminating some types of public hearings while Tame said the changes would give voice to those without homes. (Colin Slark/The Brandon Sun)

Tame’s rebuttal was that if this is about giving people a voice, he wants to give people who need housing a voice.

After considering the matter since the last meeting, Hildebrand said he was still not in favour of the most permissive zoning option and argued in favour of the middle ground.

“We’re being sped up, we’re being told we’re moving at lightning speed by your planning (commission) and that scares me whenever I hear that term,” Hildebrand said.

“Here at council, we’re supposed to be more of an oak tree where we’re not moving at lightning speed, we want to be swaying a little bit. If we’re moving at lightning speed, that’s when mistakes get made.”

Coun. Heather Karrouze (Ward 1) said the proposed changes represent an opportunity as the country grapples with a nationwide housing shortage.

“Zoning that seeks to exclude doesn’t help us as a community to provide opportunities to provide residents with housing all along the housing continuum,” she said. “Beyond the economics and the funding from the government, we have, I think, a moral obligation as a community to respond appropriately to this critical shortage with inclusionary zoning.”

Even though the changes will affect the whole city, Coun. Kris Desjarlais (Ward 2) argued that new developments won’t happen everywhere at the same time.

“Brookwood is years away from being affected by this,” he said.

“We missed our chance for inclusionary zoning in 2014 when we brought in the affordable housing bylaw. That was before I came on council. That was an opportunity to require new developments to have 10 per cent or 15 per cent affordable housing. This isn’t even that. We’re not forcing Brookwood to have affordable housing.”

If the discussion was around building 16-unit complexes on 50-foot lots, Coun. Shaun Cameron (Ward 4) said, it would be a different discussion.

He said Edmonton has already implemented the changes Brandon is considering.

“I don’t feel it’s been as catastrophic as some people thought it would be and they went full-in on it,” he said. “They went further on parking.”


Madelyn Robinson, chair of Sustainable Brandon, speaks in favour of proposed zoning bylaw changes at Monday's Brandon City Council meeting. (Colin Slark/The Brandon Sun)
Madelyn Robinson, chair of Sustainable Brandon, speaks in favour of proposed zoning bylaw changes at Monday’s Brandon City Council meeting. (Colin Slark/The Brandon Sun)

From an economic standpoint, Cameron said he doesn’t think projected revenues from continued development of single-family homes over the next 50 years will cover Brandon’s costs.

Hildebrand put a motion on the table to amend the bylaw to only allow up to duplex dwellings to be built without a public hearing. Both he and Berry said it would still meet the goals set out by the accelerator fund plan while allowing residents more of a say, but it was defeated with only the two councillors voting in favour.

Though Coun. Barry Cullen (Ward 3) said he was on board with the most permissive zoning proposal, he was against the most permissive parking proposal.

At the previous meeting, he said a removal of minimums would lead to more on-street parking, which could make snow clearing more difficult during winter.

“We’re not Vancouver, we’re not Toronto, we need parking that’s assigned to each one of the units,” he said. “The only time that I would ever say we may not need a minimum amount of parking would be a seniors’ complex, assisting living complex and downtown, where there are absolutely no parking spots available.”

A motion to adopt the recommended parking requirements was unanimous. When it came time to vote on the entire bylaw after all the amendments, Berry and Hildebrand were again the only councillors to vote in opposition.

At the beginning of the meeting, three residents came to the podium to discuss the changes.

Madelyn Robinson, the chair of Sustainable Brandon, said her group was in support of the proposed changes because it believes they will make the city more sustainable and align with its climate action plan.

“We appreciate the recognition that not everyone owns a car,” she said. “Having the parking lot requirements minimized, while also having the option of providing more parking only when the market asks for it, is sensible. We’re hopeful the ongoing transit study will eliminate the need for every family to have a car, much less two or three cars.”

A consulting firm is reviewing Brandon Transit’s current hub-and-spoke route model and is expected to provide a report with potential changes later this year.

Robinson also said her group hopes Brandon will work with the province to bring in tier three building codes, which require more energy-efficient features to be built. She said affordability isn’t just about list prices of homes, but the cost to heat and cool them.

Miles Crossman said Brandon’s ongoing troubles with infrastructure need to be kept in mind when discussing the changes.

“The city currently has many streets, especially in the core area where a lot of these changes are slated to most directly apply to, that are in dire disrepair,” Crossman said.


Miles Crossman speaks in opposition to proposed zoning bylaw changes at Monday's Brandon City Council meeting. (Colin Slark/The Brandon Sun)
Miles Crossman speaks in opposition to proposed zoning bylaw changes at Monday’s Brandon City Council meeting. (Colin Slark/The Brandon Sun)

“It’s dangerous to just suddenly have a rule … that someone can just roll up and start increasing capacity, when we’re already below the capacity we need to be at just to have good city water works.”

He said the city should have an opt-in process rather than opt-out, to put the onus on developers to get permission from residents in areas in which they want to build.

Crossman also read a letter from a neighbour of his. It objected to Berry’s earlier request to exempt the Brookwood area from the zoning changes, arguing that changes must be applied equally to all residents.

“To say that it is unfair to change the rules mid-game for an area under development is specious at best and discriminatory at worst,” the letter said.

“When someone buys a home, they select an area because of zoning regulations, character, traffic volume and all other characteristics that affect your quality of life. Everyone who owns a home in Brandon has chosen it because of those factors and those things will be affected by these proposed zoning changes whether someone purchased a home 20 years ago or two weeks ago.”

Staff said a more comprehensive review of the city’s zoning bylaws will come when the new city plan is officially implemented. Council held first reading of a bylaw adopting the city plan on Monday.

The second meeting this month will take place on July 29. Only one meeting is scheduled next month, on Aug. 19.

» cslark@brandonsun.com

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