Proposed Laneway Suites Zoning By-law Amendments

Gregg Lintern,
Chief Planner and Executive Director,
City Planning Division
City of Toronto

Re: Proposed Laneway Suites Zoning By-law Amendments

Dear Gregg,

This is to provide our comments on the draft Laneway Suites By-law Amendments as indicated in the Notice of Public Meeting published in the Toronto Star on November 3, 2021. 

FoNTRA reps recently met with Graig Uens and Caroline Samuels on October 22, and we also participated in the Community Engagement meeting held on October 27. At the latter meeting Graig advised that any further comments should be submitted as soon as possible as this Item is scheduled to be heard at the Planning and Housing Committee meeting on November 25, 2021. We therefore were very surprised to see upon examination of the Notice of Public Meeting published in the Toronto Star indicates that some of the draft Bylaw Amendments are new or different compared with what was presented to FoNTRA and to the Community Consultation meeting. These matters are complex and these changes should have been presented at the consultations to ensure the public has a clear understanding of the implications and an opportunity to ask questions, rather than just seeing them in the draft bylaw.

We have reviewed the changes in detail and present our concerns below. We are opposed to two of the proposed by-law amendments as they will negatively impact the environment, and neighbours, and in our opinion are simply not justified. As such, we request that the current bylaw standards be retained for these two by-law provisions.

Height of 2-storey Laneway Suites

The industry has asked for a height increase to 6.3 metres to allow for “opportunities for creative designs and to accommodate foundation and ceiling insulation to improve the heat envelope”.  As these provisions are for critical performance standards, “creative design” should not be considered criteria.  We understand that using higher R-value foam insulation, an insulated concrete floor assembly and other height saving measures that could improve the heat envelope can all be accommodated with NO INCREASE to the height, as this will negatively impact the adjacent neighbours. We therefore strongly oppose this amendment.

Please also see the letter from Terry Mills B.ARCH RPP MCIP, whom FoNTRA has retained to advise us. He will be submitting his professional opinion on this matter to you.

Soft Landscaping

The October 27 presentation recognizes that the City’s Neighbourhoods are losing pervious ground area at the highest rate in the City, and that innovative and consistent approaches to maintaining green space and facilitating tree canopy growth and protection are necessary moving forward. Yet, despite this concern, staff are recommending a reduction of the 85% soft landscaping requirements between the Laneway Suite and the House by EXCLUDING from the calculation a pedestrian walkway.  A regular-width walkway (approximately 1m) is sufficient and this area is provided for by the 15% allocation in the rear yard area for hard-scaping. It is important that the area allowed for paving is clearly limited. The new proposal for excluding any limitations of a pedestrian walkway is detrimental to the objective of ensuring permeable land area.

It is also proposed that the Rear Yard Setback be reduced from 1.5 metres from the property line of the public lane to 1.0 metres.  This should ADD rear yard area to be used in the 85% rear yard soft landscaping calculation. This is a further reason to NOT REDUCE the rear yard soft landscaping. A permeable 1 meter walkway can easily be provided between the house and the laneway suite within the 15% hard-scaping allocation with NO REDUCTION to the 85% soft landscaping requirements.

We would also like to comment on other proposed amendments:

Abutting Rear Yards and Side Yards

This was first presented at the October 27 Community meeting. We did not understand that this was going to be proposed as a by-law amendment.  We have concerns with just a 1.5 metre setback at the second storey dependent on the rear setback and the height of the laneway suite. We ask that discussion occur whether an angular plane calculation might be more appropriate, in addition to the 1.5 metre setback, to correspond to the proposals for garden suites, as the conditions are the same.

Upper Decks

At the October 27 Community meeting, concerns were raised about Upper Decks.  Regulation Section (Laneway Suites) for Upper Decks conflicts with ZB 569-2013 Section Decks, Platforms and Amenities. We propose that a new by-law provision is required to have the Laneway Suite regulation for decks to be the same as what is now required in RD zones, this being a maximum length/width???of 4.0 meters.

FoNTRA therefore requests:

  • That the proposed by-law amendments for Height and Rear Yard Soft Landscaping not be approved. 
  • That other options for the proposed abutting rear yards and side yards amendment be considered, and
  • That the amendments for upper decks proposed by FoNTRA be included.

Yours truly,

Geoff Kettel
Co-Chair, FoNTRA

Cathie Macdonald
Co-Chair, FoNTRA