The Mature Neighbourhood Overlay (MNO) was designed in 2001 as part of Zoning Bylaw 12800. The overlay applies to Edmonton’s mature communities (communities generally built before 1973). There were 22 regulations put in place to ensure all new development in existing communities remain sensitive to the surrounding community by regulating features such as size of front and back yards, building height, window placement and garage/driveway locations. It was also important to update the overlay to reduce variances in the permitting process which will provide certainty for those applying for development permits. I’ve previously written about the MNO review both in June 2016 and February 2017 I encourage you to read through those posts as they provide further details about the review process and draft amendments to the bylaw. Balanced communities are essential to the economic and environmental sustainability of our City. Efficient land use is a key factor in Edmonton, especially within our mature neighbourhoods where we’ve see a huge population decline in the past forty years. This can eventually lead to school and business closures which in turn decreases the vibrancy of a community.
Public engagement included over 7,800 responses from citizens as well as community stakeholders such as Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, Infill Development Edmonton Association, Canadian Home Builders Association, and individual community leagues throughout Edmonton. You can find detailed descriptions of the public engagement process and feedback in attachment 3 (here).
After completing the review of the Overlay, with the goal of reduced variances and ensuring infill respond better to context, Administration felt that the best approach would be to make changes to the front setback to clarify the depth of building pocket which will result in less variances to the rear yard setback. Please review the approved changes in attachment 5 (here). That attachment provides great visuals so you can better understand what the text changes actually mean. As many of the changes had significant support from a majority of the participants, I wanted to highlight a few of the changes that had a greater mix of opinions.
Front Setback: The proposed approach eliminates the need for a time consuming and complicated assessment of front setbacks along the entire block face, in order to establish the allowable building pocket. The proposed approach establishes the front setback based on the average front setback of abutting lots to a maximum of 20 percent of site depth.
Consultation for Variances: The new approach to consultation for proposed variances is a streamlining improvement that provides enhanced certainty for applicants and neighbours. The new tiered approach to consultation has the potential to reduce the time it takes for the development authority to obtain information to make a decision on a proposed variance. It also responds to citizen input that supports reduced notification for variances that don’t have far reaching impacts.
Front Driveways: While it was discussed at previous committee meetings that front driveways not be permitted in new house builds within neighbourhoods where back lane exists, a different proposal was brought forward to allow for front driveways where back lanes exist but only if there’s no front boulevard with trees. This was met with criticism from residents and members of Council, including myself, as some feel this will create mobility issues as well as decrease the walkability of neighbourhoods. Administration will draft changes to the bylaw that will address the concerns raised at the Public Hearing and bring it to Council in August before the bylaw changes come into effect.
Summary: City Council voted to approve the bylaw amendments with changes taking effect September 1, 2017 as this will give all stakeholders time to transition to the new overlay. All changes will be on the City’s Infill Website I want to thank all of you that submitted your feedback on this. This information was critical to the success of these changes and I believe this will alleviate concerns for both current and future community members. Updating the MNO was not a quick process but it was necessary to provide more opportunities for quality infill in our mature communities while giving existing residents greater certainty around how homes can be built. As a resident of a mature community, I am excited to see these changes so we can bring more people back to our neighbourhoods.
Written by A. Knack and K. Machin