High density spot zoning creates hardship

I purchased my second single family home in 1979. It was located at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac in a good neighborhood.

The downside was it backed onto a retail strip mall. That wasn’t a concern for me however because everything within that retail corridor was one storey.

Within a year of owning the home, it was announced that a five-storey office building would be constructed overlooking my rear yard.

I immediately sold the property.

Even though the project was public knowledge, I believed it would be easier to sell before it could be seen that the windows in that towering structure would have a full view of my yard.

From that early, first hand experience I can relate to homeowners that are suddenly faced with a project that significantly impacts the value of their home.

Is increased density beneficial?

In an earlier post I weighed the pros and cons of urban densification.

I stated, “…I get it; I wouldn’t like the idea of a multi storey apartment block towering over my rear yard. Many of these same homeowners will be the first to criticize city hall for increasing property taxes.”

Despite this, for many of the reasons cited in that post, we need to increase density in our core areas.

So, what’s the problem?

The problem is the impact on the property owners within the immediate surrounding single-family homes adjacent new hi-rise development.

Where there is loss of privacy, the loss of property value can be significant.

If, however the zoning for high density development is in place and an adjacent property is purchased without the buyer completing its due diligence, I do not sympathize with that buyer.

I’ve heard the argument that a residential area will experience a significant increase in traffic volume with the construction of a high-rise multi-family development.

I don’t buy it.

Sit outside any multi-family building and I’ll defy you to find a time of day where vehicles are streaming in a high volume in or out of the parking area.

What can be done differently?

Rather than reviewing ad-hoc spot zoning applications as they come in, the City of Saskatoon needs to go back to the planning stage and identify the sites they will permit higher density development.

That would provide existing owners the opportunity to sell prior to commencement of the development and new buyers the opportunity to make an informed decision based on actual zoning prior to investing.

I want to be clear that I’m in favor of high density, in-fill development.

We just need to get better at identifying those sites that are appropriate for additional development.

Posted by Barry Stuart

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