Sidney reviewing density rules

Report outlines shortcomings in zoning blyaws vs. planning objectives.

Sidney is in the process of reviewing its rules over development density.

As issues simmer in some Sidney neighbourhoods facing more homes packed on finite spaces, the municipality itself has been quietly reviewing its own policies.

Consulting firm Barefoot Planning recently gave the Town of Sidney a mixed review at best, when it comes  to establishing rules around density and new development in the town.

In its report, presented to council on March 7, Barefoot noted that Sidney was looking to see if its regulation of density within its borders meets the “current development context” and the objectives of the Town: encourage redevelopment; increase affordability; ensure contextual density, and; improve policy.

“This report makes it demonstrably clear that current density regulations fail to meet the Town’s planning objectives,” stated the consultant in its conclusions. “And key policy directions … are simply inadequate to achieve the desired development in the Town.”

To overcome what the consultant terms a “missed opportunity” to achieve benefits from good design and density, Barefoot Planning made recommendations which were accepted by council.

Town Chief Administrative Officer Randy Humble said the report is a synopsis of how the Town uses density within its zoning bylaw.

“(The report) clearly indicates there’s an issue,” he said, noting specifically the Town’s use of Units Per Hectare (UPH) .

Humble said Sidney, out of 12 similar-sized municipalities, was the only one still using UPH to calculate density. The others are using Floor Area Ratio (FAR) requirements, or a combination of the two.

In its report, Barefoot noted UPH to some degree pushes developers into rezonings and the use or bonus density to make a project viable — which “can act as a barrier to good development.”

Humble said council has agreed to look into changes to its density regulations, including a review of the two different formulae.

As part of its next phase of their density review, the Town will discuss provisions to require family-size units in new developments, massing-control zoning regulations, an evaluation of parking requirements and a review of density bonuses and amenity contributions.

“This will provide council with updated decision-making tools in regards to new development by bringing our density regulations in line with our community’s overall vision and goals,” said Mayor Steve Price in a statement.

“It also establishes some significant groundwork for our planned (Official Community Plan) review in 2018.”

Sidney has given the consultant a green light to proceed with the second phase of the review, which will include public consultation. The Town plans on using its website, sidney.ca, to notify residents of progress and input opportunities.