It was only a few years ago that the City of St. Catharines embarked on an ambitious and comprehensive review of its zoning by-laws. But significant changes in the real estate market, development industry and construction starts have prompted St. Catharines City Councillors to once again review these zoning by-laws.
St. Catharines, and all Niagara municipalities to some extent, are experiencing a challenging combination of factors when it comes to residential development. These factors are:
- Niagara real estate is becoming more lucrative as a long period of undervalue is corrected
- There is a significant and immediate need for high-density housing, across all price ranges
- Total area available for development is restricted by the Greenbelt, protected watersheds and other environmental features
High-Density Housing and new St. Catharines building rules
None of these factors have been created in a vacuum and each influences the other two. The result is a strong motivation among developers to construct high-density housing on lots that previously featured single family homes. These new developments would alleviate pressure on the understocked rental market and help steady rapidly increasing real estate prices.
However, many existing residents have expressed frustration with these new developments and the process that sees them become approved. As a result, some of the changes that City Councillors will consider include:
- Urban design guidelines for established neighbourhoods and a design review panel to review and evaluate proposed developments.
- Reducing residential height limits from 11 metres, or three storeys, to 9.5 metres, or two storeys.
- Notices of hearings would be distributed 21 days in advance to provide residents more opportunity to register feedback and understand the impact of the proposal. The previous timeline was 14 days.
It could be said that the challenges facing St. Catharines are “good problems to have”. Namely: an attractive place to live, geographic features worth protecting and a community that is proud of their individual neighbourhoods.