----City changes own rules, reducing parking spots in residential neighbourhoods
Cars are a challenge in Aylmer, most readers would agree. The lack of harmony between pedestrians and drivers has been at the forefront recently. And winter parking scarcity affects more people every year as new apartment complexes pop up like mushrooms. Densification is useful to Aylmer as the business community struggles with competing with the Plateau area, a new shopping destination closer than Hull or Gatineau - or Ottawa. Traffic comes with densification - and so does parking.
For virtually every single development built in the last five years, the builders requested a reduction in the minimum required number of parking units. More people are living in these apartment complexes - they are affordable and brand new. But with the pressure on optimizing the land to build more rentable units, there is a trend to build fewer parking spots, and smaller ones, too.
Of all the condominium and apartment complexes built in the last five years in Aylmer, the majority did not maintain the minimum number required by Gatineau’s Land Use Planning Bylaw. All the rest of the projects were permitted to reduce the number of parking units, called a Minor Variance. For example, one building complex that had a minimum requirement of 117 units, was permitted to go down to 101 (2016). Another one, from a minimum of 30 units, was permitted to build only 18 (2015). A project was permitted to go from 24 to 16 parking units (2014), and in the same project, went from 2 to 0 Special Needs parking.
Builders must present the specifics to their plans when they apply for a Minor Variance, such as reducing the number of parking spots. And it can only be assumed that city officials weigh the specific elements of a building design against the needs of the people living inside those buildings. Proximity to public transit, number of rooms per apartment, average expected visitor parking are some of the considerations planners juggle when deciding on a realistic minimum threshold for parking. Knowing these aspects go into decisions about how many units are needed per apartment, why are streets in these complexes so full of parked cars? And where do these cars park in the winter? Even with a winter parking permit, when a storm hits, those cars must be moved elsewhere. Where?
It is no surprise that apartments are occupied by young families, the affordability compared with a detached home makes this obvious. Yet, how do these parents manage the winter parking? Where do the elderly who visit them park? And how does the snow-clearing service handle those cars that aren’t moved?
The answers to these questions make a difference in the daily lives of residents. This is why a minimum number (and size) of parking units is specified in the Land Use Planning Bylaw. Paying attention to the needs of residents, as well as builders, is how a city is well-run.