Zoning changes to pursue city’s “missing middle”

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Duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes are just some of the new developments St. Albertans will see under the city’s new land use bylaw.

Changes to existing residential zones also provide density incentives for developers to include specific amenities – such as underground parking – in their designs.

While R3 zoning now has a density range of 35 to 42 dwelling units per hectare, developers who go the extra mile can be given a density of up to 54. For R3A, which has a density range of 40 to 94 dwelling units per hectare, the bonus means developers could get up to 125 dwelling units per hectare.

“If you’re proving you are doing something well over on one side, then (the city will) give you a bonus density, which ends up being more profitable,” said Mayor Cathy Heron.

“You get bonuses for doing good things, essentially.”

Heron has spoken to the Gazette in the past about the need for St. Albert to pursue its “missing middle” – or families buying their first or second homes – for whom duplexes and condos are often more attractive.

She said the variety of new housing options under the updated land use bylaw should give people their choice of home.

“I don’t want single-family homes right beside high rises – we need that transition zoning, so this provides it,” she said.

“Lots of people don’t want to live in an apartment – they want ground-level access.”

Among the other changes in the land use bylaw are narrower lots for single-family homes. Now, the mixture of lot sizes mandates 10 to 40 per cent of lots to be greater than 12.5 metres wide, while between 35 and 80 per cent can be between 10 and 12.5 metres and up to 25 per cent can be less than 10 metres.

A look at back alleys

One of the bylaw’s new residential zonings allows for a rear lane behind the homes, which Heron said provide more on-street parking, more trees as well as a boost to safety for pedestrians.

When she was a councillor last term, Heron was in favour of limited rear lanes, which previously had not been allowed at all in St. Albert.

“It comes from a lot of conversations, some of it around housing types, affordability and density, but lots of it came around the Safe Journeys to School conversation,” she said.

“It’s on those busy roads. I think it will be much better to have no piercing of the sidewalk with driveways.”

She added as long as St. Albert meets its density requirements under the updated land use bylaw, she is not in favour of expanding allowances for back alleys.

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April Hudson

April is the editor of the St. Albert Gazette