Stricter rules and clear goals needed to create a mix of housing in Collingwood: Consultant

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

A consultant hired to lead the Official Plan review suggests better defining housing types, setting targets, and using town bylaws as tools to meet Collingwood’s targets.

Ron Palmer of The Planning Partnership presented his recommendations to council ahead of releasing a draft report last week. He identified guiding values and themes “emerging that are going to inform the preparation of the official plan.” They include walkability, social inclusivity, healthy lifestyle, sustainability, connectivity and higher quality urban design.”

Collingwood_Options and Recommendations_FinalNov19

During the review, Palmer said housing was one of the most consistently talked-about issues.

“It’s an unbelievably important element of this official plan,” he told council. “I did a little bit of research on housing costs in Collingwood and was stunned to find how expensive you are relative to other municipalities in Southern Ontario.”

Because the town has “a very significant dependence” on low intensity single-detatched and very expensive housing, the goal should be to broaden the requirements for a range in mix of housing in the greenfield areas, existing neighbourhoods . . . but Collingwood also need to ensure we are dealing with requirements for affordable housing, “however that is defined.”

“My objective here is to give the municipality all of the tools that are available to you to try and achieve your affordable housing target. First, you need to establish a target and then you need a policy framework that will help you achieve it.”

He also recommends using inclusionary zoning policies – a new planning tool that the province has added to the Planning Act. Palmer says this would compel the development industry to build affordable housing.

“In an Official Plan, we are required to give you the power and policy that enables you to use that tool which is, as the name implies, is a zoning tool.”

town of collingwood
Town of Collingwood

What is not know? Will Collingwood permitted to use the tools and what are the parameters of how it will be implemented. More details are needed from the provincial government.

The recommendations also focus on community design, expecting that the current framework, “a relatively soft approach relying on urban design guidelines” and giving it the statutory strength of a policy in the OP.

Collingwood must “create a stronger, more progressive urban design policy and expand the architectural control process so that it includes more detailed guidance.”

Also, Palmer is exploring the possibility of establishing a Design Review Panel to provide an overview and urban design peer review process to help regulate and manage development decisions.

For the downtown and waterfront areas, current planning policies are “quite restrictive.”

However, the town needs policies to better manage built forms, relationship to the street, location of higher densities and supporting walking, cycling and transit.

“We’re going to be making thousands of decisions about what we want to regulate and how we want to regulate it. And what is the level of control the municipality, first of all, is allowed to exert, and secondly, wishes to exert. Sometimes that means telling yourself what to do.”

In the Options and Recommendations Report released in time for a public workshop this week, Palmer recommends specifically identifying areas of the town that can become “urban centres and corridors.” Those areas could then be promoted as potential sites for taller, higher-density buildings.”

The report recommends a change to the town’s regulation of downtown development to encourage diversity of uses in the downtown. For example, the report suggests rather than focusing on the downtown exclusively as a commercial hub, the official plan allow for intensified residential, and  office/employment that is in keeping with the “downtown experience.”

“This would involve building on the concentration of institutional, cultural, recreational, entertainment and retail/commercial uses, as well as connections to the water, heritage character and high-quality public realm,” states the report.

You can read the full report here.

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