DRAFT updated September 28, 2019; subject to revision after additional input and neighbourhood consultation.
Note: Additional resources to comprehend the proposed Secondary Plan can be found here.
We, the board of the Olde Berlin Town Neighbourhood Association, thank Tina Malone-Wright and the Planning Department for the first draft of our neighbourhood’s Secondary Plans and for responding to our questions and information requests. There is much to be appreciated in the new proposed zoning, and we see evidence of integration of aspects of the Civic Centre Neighbourhood Heritage Conservation District Plan (CCNHCDP). Thank you.
Since the Open House on December 12, 2018, we have shared the information with our neighbourhood via our website and directed neighbours to it via our hand-delivered newsletters and our Facebook page and email broadcast. We presented the information at our neighbourhood association’s annual general meeting on March 2, 2019. We hosted six study sessions on the Secondary Plans between January and September 2019. We delivered the initial comments (included as Appendix 2) to the Planning Department in March 2019 and held a 2-hour discussion with Manager of Long-Range & Policy Planning Brandon Sloan on March 30, 2019. All of our activities have been open to the entire neighbourhood. Our local Heritage & Development Committee met monthly to oversee the collection of the neighbourhood comments and the distillation of the comments into the following report (please see Appendix 2 for a list of questions put by members of the community). All comments were delivered to the Planning Department without modification. We have attempted to achieve unanimity among all those who have engaged in our discussions. The findings of our report are unanimously supported by the study session participants, Heritage and Development Committee and OBTNA Board, unless noted otherwise.
We hope that our requests can be incorporated into the Olde Berlin Town Secondary Plan and thank you for your consideration.
On an administrative level, we request all the land-use documents (Secondary Plan, Urban Design Manual, Heritage Conservation District Plan, Self-guided tour information, etc.) refer to the neighbourhood as “Olde Berlin Town” as opposed to “Civic Centre” so as to eliminate confusion. Civic Centre is easily associated with the lands occupied by Centre in the Square, the library, gaol, court house, registry office and so forth, and these lands are not within the boundaries of the current nor proposed Secondary Plan. The neighbourhood identifies itself as Olde Berlin Town; neighbours will be better able to locate relevant planning information if it is labelled in a consistent manner.
The Present Reality
Olde Berlin Town is a neighbourhood originally constructed between 1870 and 1930, where “[a]lmost two-thirds of the existing houses were built between 1880 and 1917” (p. 2.3, CCNHCDP). The existing low-rise heritage houses (Group A, B, and C houses) make up 91.4% of the buildings in the District and have:
- a total height of under 10 m (compared to a proposed limit of 11 m);
- a height at the eaves of under 7 metres with sloped roofs which permit light to reach neighbouring properties;
- an FSR of about 0.4 (compared to a proposed inferred limit of 1.35);
- an average lot coverage of habitable buildings of under 25% (compared to the proposed limit of 45%); and
- rear yard setbacks averaging about 18m, where they abut proposed MIX-2 zones (the abutting MIX zones are required to have a setback of only 7.5 metres from low-rise residential zones).
In considering land use in Olde Berlin Town, we keep in mind the land use goal identified by the CCNHCDP:
“Maintain the low-density residential character of the Civic Centre Neighbourhood Heritage Conservation District as the predominant land use, while recognizing that certain areas of the District already have or are intended for a wider range of uses” (p 3.2).
We furthermore note the District Plan’s guiding principle regarding land use:
“Preserve Traditional Setting – A building is intimately connected to its site and to the neighbouring landscape and buildings. Land, gardens, outbuildings and fences form a setting that should be considered during plans for restoration or change. An individual building is perceived as part of a grouping and requires its neighbours to illustrate the original design intent. When buildings need to change there is a supportive setting that should be maintained” (p. 3.4, CCNHCDP).
And we recognize the request made of individual property owners:
“Encourag[e] individual building owners to understand the broader context of heritage preservation, and recognize that buildings should outlive their individual owners and each owner or tenant should consider themselves stewards of the building for future owners and users” (p. 3.1, CCNHCDP).
This is a substantial ask of property owners, and we are fortunate to have a community that embraces this philosophy. Cooperation and support is required from the Planning Department and the City of Kitchener to foster and maintain this partnership by preserving the context that supports the use of the buildings.
Use of land and buildings, for a residential property owner, extends beyond the basics of space for sleeping, bathing, cooking, eating, etc. It can include, among other things, gardening, outdoor leisure, aesthetic pleasure, the option of a peaceful retreat from the outside world, and the possibility of developing relations with neighbours and a wider community. In a word, it includes enjoyment. The owners’ enjoyment may be diminished, if the context that supports these uses is removed or compromised. We do not believe it prudent to expect owners to continue to be good stewards of property that no longer provides enjoyment.
This report’s goals are to:
- promote internally consistent zoning, to ensure uniform protections and benefits under the law, under similar circumstances, while respecting the existing rights and circumstances of individual property owners;
- ensure zoning supports the heritage district plan and does not incentivize owners to detract from the neighbourhood context thereby compromising existing uses; and
- establish rules for transitioning to more intensive zones around the neighbourhood.
We note that where these goals are not engrained in zoning, it can become financially and otherwise unrewarding to invest in the care and maintenance of one’s property. We have heard from those in the gateways to the neighbourhood how painful it is to bear the restrictions of the heritage district without adequate protections from their neighbours on the other side of the heritage district border. Where the burdens of such inappropriate transitions become excessive, the potential for neglect mounts. One neglected property can have a domino effect on its neighbours and poses a threat to the district as a whole.
The new Secondary Plan offers an opportunity to integrate the policies and requirements of the Heritage District Plan into zoning along with appropriate transitions from the District to its neighbours. It is our hope that such clear, explicit regulations will stabilize the neighbourhood and thereby create the safe setting required to encourage investment in restoration, maintenance and renovation within the Heritage District and new builds along the perimeter, both of which will contribute to the desired intensification.
The currently proposed RES-3 zoning does not adequately reflect the context to be preserved, as its limits are far more permissive than the existing built form in its existing context. We request a revised zoning or special regulation be applied to all the properties in the heritage district to properly integrate the Heritage Conservation District Plan into zoning.
We acknowledge that both the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) and the City of Kitchener Official Plan call for intensification. We note that the PPS also “encourag[es] a sense of place, by promoting well-designed built form and cultural planning, and by conserving features that help define character, including built heritage resources and cultural heritage landscapes” (PPS, 1.7.1). Objective 3.2.5. of Kitchener’s Official Plan also sets as an objective “[t]o maintain a compatible interface between Intensification Areas and surrounding areas and achieve an appropriate transition of built form.”
Even with the proposed changes exemplified in the Draft Revision to the MIX Zoning (please see Appendix 3), we see the potential for incompatible heights and floor space ratios as shown in the two following diagrams. We offer zoning alternatives in Appendix 1.
In Figure 1, above, we see average Olde Berlin heritage houses, with typical setbacks, beside MIX buildings of maximum height with the minimum setback. The green line connects the top of the roof of the house on the left to the top of the lowest roof of the MIX building. The left-most red line connects the eaves of the house on the left to the eaves of the lowest roof of the MIX building. The two red lines are parallel. One can see the light available to the middle house, coming in above its neighbour under the red line. The house on the left cannot receive the same degree of light. Both the green and red lines extending from the left-most house are interrupted by stepped back walls of the MIX-2, -3 and -4 buildings.
In Figure 2, above, we see the typical volume of Olde Berlin heritage houses, with typical setbacks, beside the approximate maximum zoned volume of MIX-1 and -2 buildings, with minimum zoned setbacks. We know that the volume of the MIX buildings will be larger, because floor-to ceiling heights in commercial buildings tend to be higher than in residential builds. The MIX-1 building has five times the floor space of its immediate low-rise neighbour. The MIX-2 building has nearly eight times the floor space of its immediate low-rise neighbour.
In discussing the proposed transitions with neighbours, the most common first response was a gasp of shock.
To achieve an appropriate transition and respect and encourage the retention of the existing built form in the heritage district protected housing stock, we request that any transitions start from the existing reality. To transition from the low-rise heritage houses, we request:
- that all zoning within and adjacent to the neighbourhood incorporate setbacks on yards facing or abutting the heritage district that at least equal the average of the zoned setback requirement and average existing setback of the heritage district lands on the block or 7.5 m, whichever is greater. Example: a Mixed Use building with a required setback of 7.5 m sharing a rear property line with a low rise residence on a block with average rear yard setbacks of 18 m would be required to have a rear yard setback of (7.5 + 18)/2 or 12.25 m.
- the maximum building height to be 12 metres within 15 metres of an adjacent lot with a low-rise residential zone (14 metres within 15 metres of an adjacent lot with a low-rise residential zone on a regional road or city arterial street). The width of streets, lanes, sidewalks, etc. would not contribute to the 15 metre calculation.
- that (portions of) buildings exceeding 14 metres in height be separated from low rise zones by a distance at least equal to the building’s maximum height, i.e., a 20 metre building must be at least 20 metres from the property line of a low rise residential zone.
- that the minimum landscaped area of properties adjacent to heritage district properties be 30%, and
- that heritage district properties not be subjected to more shadowing than their height and setback limits permit them to cast onto their neighbours.
We furthermore request
- that all zones permitting residential uses, including Mixed Use zones, provide outdoor amenity areas for the residential portion of their occupancy, following the same rules as for residential multiple dwelling zones.
- that all new development within the Secondary Plan boundaries that is not low-rise residential adhere to Special Policy 13.1.3 of the existing Secondary Plan, specifically that no vehicular traffic associated with the new development be permitted access to the public lanes or streets within the district.
- that the portion of Queen Street in the district, be recognized as integral to the district and be zoned RES-3 office (churches excepted), with Special Regulations confirming any existing use, zoned height, lot coverage or FSR limits as legal non-conforming and not to be used as precedent for future development. Unlike Victoria St N, Queen St N is not a Mixed Use Corridor. This portion of Queen St is listed as a “Minor Collector Road” in the current Secondary Plan unlike Victoria, Weber and Queen to the south of Weber which are Regional Roads.
- that all properties in the block bounded by Water St N, Ahrens St W, College St and Weber St W be included in the neighbourhood Secondary Plan to ensure that any possible mid-block transitions may be discussed within a single planning community.
- that some element of the institutional uses of the churches be retained, perhaps on at least the floor space of the main floor. The institutional uses of places of worship provide substantial service to the community. While the form of institutional use may vary in the event that religious congregations decline, the need for community gathering places is only increasing as we intensify. If this requested change is not incorporated, all the built community space inside the neighbourhood could be lost.
- that low-rise residential zones be required to have a minimum soft (living) landscaped area.
- that front and exterior side yards and boulevards be required to be predominantly landscaped with living plants.
Handling Exceptional Cases
We acknowledge that site-specific appropriate transitions are needed, where existing builds or zoning defy the rules and principles. Such transitions must respect the existing builds and property rights. We note the internal contradiction/tension in assigning MIX-2 zoning immediately abutting a low-rise heritage district neighbourhood whereas the purpose of the MIX-1 zone is “to accommodate a variety of uses within mixed use buildings and mixed use developments at a low density and scale in … areas that are adjacent to properties zoned for low density residential uses.” (CRoZBy, Section 8, p1). We attempt to address such challenges in the list of requested address-specific changes below.
We further note that the Mixed Use Corridor along Water St N and Victoria St N, was established in 2011, recently in comparison to the 1985 Secondary Plan, and subsequent to the adoption of the Civic Centre Heritage District Conservation Plan. Much effort was invested in creating By-law 2011-058, which established the Mixed Use Corridor. Substantial sacrifices and compromises were required of the community. We ask that the Special Regulations of By-law 2011-058 be retained. Should the Planning Department wish to deviate from the Special Regulations of By-law 2011-058 at this time, we ask that it only do so with the unanimous, written consent of all immediately adjacent neighbours.
Leaving aside properties along Weber, Water and Victoria, we also note anomalies in zoning, where a single property is proposed to be zoned significantly more intensively from its surroundings. In such cases, we propose that the zoning be revised to match the neighbours. We suggest the properties be tagged with Special Regulations confirming the existing use, height, lot coverage and FSR as legal non-conforming and not to be used as precedent for future development. To enable a reconciliation in zoning, we ask that owners of these properties be permitted to forgo some or all of the benefits conferred by these Special Regulations, at no cost to the owners, via a signed, written request.
Appendix 1: Requested Address-Specific Changes to Proposed Zoning
|Address||Current Zone||Current Special Regulations||Proposed Zone||
|28 Ahrens St W||R-6||RES-5||RES-3a|
|70 Ahrens St W||P-1||OSR-2||OSR-1 without cemetery or community facility use or possibility of buildings|
|103 Ahrens St W||MU-1||566R||MIX-1||Retain 566R, Include in Civic Centre Secondary Plan|
|119 College St||R-9||RES-7||RES-3a|
|10 Ellen St W||R-8||RES-6||RES-3a|
|20 Ellen St W||R-8||RES-6||RES-3a|
|200 Frederick St||D-7||UGC-2||Minimum yard setback of 6 metres for those yards facing the heritage district, Maximum podium height of 14m, Finite height limits and stepbacks as required.|
|7 Lancaster St W||R-5||RES-3||RES-3 Office|
|40 Lancaster St E||R-7||RES-5||RES-3a|
|28 Mansion St||R-8||RES-5||RES-3a|
|11 Margaret Ave||R-9||RES-7||RES-3a|
|30-40 Margaret Ave||R-8||RES-6||RES-3a|
|43 Margaret Ave||R-7||RES-6||RES-3a|
|54 Margaret Ave||R-8||RES-6||RES-3. Note “a”, intentionally not applied, as owner is willing to forgo additional development options|
|54 Queen St N||I-2||MIX-2||INS-1?, Retain some element of institutional use, perhaps on at least the floor space of the main floor? Retain the height limit of 15.3 m|
|68-86 Queen St N, 11 Roy St||CR-1||MIX-2||RES-3a Office, Maximum height of 14m|
|100 Queen St N||R-9||RES-7||RES-3a Office|
|73-85, 101 Queen St N (odd numbers only)||D-7||UGC-2||Minimum yard setback of 6 metres for those yards facing the heritage district, Maximum podium height of 14m, Finite height limits and stepbacks as required.|
|108 Queen St N / 9 Margaret Ave||CR-2||MIX-2||RES-3a Office|
|116 Queen St N / 12 Margaret Ave||I-2||MIX-2||INS-1?, Retain some element of institutional use, perhaps on at least the floor space of the main floor? Retain the height limit of 153 m|
|170 Otto St||D-7||UGC-2||OSR-1 without cemetery or community facility use or possibility of buildings|
|175 Queen St N||R-9||RES-7||RES-3a|
|42, 46 St Leger St||MU-1||RES-3||RES-3a Office|
|151 Victoria St N||MU-1||560R||MIX-2||MIX-1, Retain 560R|
|159 Victoria St N||MU-1||562R||MIX-2||Retain 562R|
|165-189 Victoria St N||MU-1||559R||MIX-2||Retain 559R|
|195 Victoria St N||MU-1||562R||MIX-2||Retain 562R|
|221 Victoria St N||MU-1||561R, 562R||MIX-2||Retain 561R|
|231 Victoria St N/57-61 Ellen St W and 239 Victoria St N/56 Ellen St W||MU-1||RES-3||RESa-3 Office|
|245 Victoria St N||MU-1||562R||MIX-2||Retain 562R|
|249-257 Victoria St N||MU-1||559R||MIX-2||Retain 559R|
|275 Victoria St N||MU-1||562R||MIX-2||Retain 562R|
|277 Victoria St N, 33 St Leger St||MU-1||MIX-2||RES-3a Office|
|281 Victoria St N||MU-1||562R||MIX-2||Retain 562R|
|289-333 Victoria St N||MU-1||563R||MIX-2||Retain 563R|
|341-343 Victoria St N||R-5||RES-3||RES-3 Office|
|20 Weber St E||D-7||UGC-2||Minimum yard setback of 6 metres for those yards facing the heritage district, Finite height limits and stepbacks as required.|
|18-28, 44-78 Weber St W||CR-3||MIX-2||Minimum Rear Yard of 10 metres or one half the building height, whichever is greater|
|32 Weber St W||CR-3||MIX-2||Retain some element of institutional use, perhaps on at least the floor space of the main floor?|
|80-84 Weber St W||CR-3||MIX-2||Intentionally blank, subject to further review|
|90-94 Weber St W||MU-2||MIX-2||Include in Civic Centre Secondary Plan|
|95 Water St N||MU-2||MIX-2||Retain 565R Include in Civic Centre Secondary Plan|
|99 Water St N||MU-2||MIX-2||Include in Civic Centre Secondary Plan|
|103-125 Water St N||MU-2||565R||MIX-2||Retain 565R, Include in Civic Centre Secondary Plan|
|127 Water St N||MU-1||560R||MIX-1||Retain 560R, Include in Civic Centre Secondary Plan|
a Existing use, height, lot coverage and FSR documented as legal non-conforming and not to be used as precedent for future development.
Appendix 2: Neighbourhood Comments Submitted in Advance of March 30th 2019 Consultation
- Can we have all the land-use documents (Secondary Plan, Urban Design Manual, Heritage Conservation District Plan, Self-guided tour information, etc.) refer to the neighbourhood as “Olde Berlin Town” as opposed to “Civic Centre” so as to eliminate confusion?
- Can we include a statement in the Secondary Plans that the recommendations in sections 4.0-4.5 and 6.9.0-6.9.4, inclusive, of the Heritage District Conservation Plan are to be read as requirements, with the words “recommended/recommend/recommends” and other such variants to be read as “shall”, etc.? Doing so would eliminate misunderstandings and ensure the value of the public consultations and commissioned reports.
- Can we include a statement in the Secondary Plans clarifying that RES-3 is the zoning for all lands within the Heritage District, except for
- 103 Ahrens St W, 94 Ahrens/151&153 Victoria St N, 277 Victoria St N and 33 St Leger,
- all properties fronting Weber St W, and
- and that the lands zoned more intensively are exceptions, so zoned to reflect existing buildings pre-dating this Secondary Plan?
- Can we define maximum height in terms of meters? Can we ensure that meters be used as the units of physical measurement? This might be best applied city-wide.
- Can we ensure that no property is subjected to more shadowing than its height and setback limits permit it to throw onto its neighbours? This would safeguard existing uses such as the collection of solar energy and gardening. Page 3.10 of the CCHDCP states “Any buildings proposed over 5 storeys in height may be required to undertake shadow studies where they abut existing residential uses, to demonstrate that they will not unreasonably impact on access to sunlight in rear yard amenity areas.” Can we also have a city-wide rule on shadowing, using Mississauga’s plan (www6.mississauga.ca/onlinemaps/planbldg/UrbanDesign/FinalStandards_ShadowStudies_July2014.pdf) as a starting point?
- Can we designate all properties with frontage on Victoria not planned for MIX-2 zoning as Low Rise Residential Office RES-3?
- Why does the proposed zoning recommend a maximum of two units in the RES-3 zones instead of the currently permitted maximum of three units as per the Secondary Plan provision 220.127.116.11?
- Can we allocate required additional green space within a 10-minute walk of the development which generates the requirement?
- Can we ensure that properties are capable of storing snow on their own land or appropriate sized boulevards?
- Can we ensure that “as of right” zoning is interpreted to reflect all legislation, including heritage, shadowing, transition, wind tunnels, etc., and not simply the zoned Floor Space Ratio, setback and height limits?
- Can we ensure that no properties are stranded in intensified zones (i.e. single house surrounded by developed, consolidated lots)? Do we need holding provisions to do so?
- Can we increase the minimum lot width (frontage on street) to 25 metres for MIXED 2 zones? Do MIXED 3 and 4 zones need even wider widths?
- Can we institute a 15 metre setback on MIX-2 properties abutting a Low-Rise Residential zone in the CCHDCP?
- Why are we proposing to prohibit semi-detached dwellings in the RES-3 zones? We already have a few heritage semis.
- Can we ensure that the churches are zoned to retain a primary use that serves all society – community facility, cultural facility, place of worship, etc.? (The request that the churches remain under I-2 zoning was one of the most frequent comments.)
- Can sidewalks be widened on Victoria St N?
- Can we zone 54 Margaret Ave RES-3 as opposed to RES-6? It is a Class A heritage building like its neighbours across the street.
- Can we retain the properties along the south-east side of Water Street in the Civic Centre Secondary Plan? Having the neighbourhood boundaries break down a rear property line as opposed to at a major street is confusing.
- More specifically, can we retain 127 and 130 Water St N in the Civic Centre Secondary Plan? They are in the Heritage District and form part of the gateway to Ahrens from Water/Victoria, as per the CCHCDP.
- Why is 277 Victoria St N proposed to receive a MIX-2 designation? It is land included in the Heritage District Plan with existing zoning MU-1 162U 401U 562R. It is part of the gateway to St Leger from Victoria, as per the CCHCDP. Can it be designated MIX 1?
- Why is the portion of 33 St Leger included in the Heritage District being proposed to receive a MIX-2 designation? It currently zoned MU-1 162U 559R. Can it be designated MIX-1?
- People appreciate the re-zoning of a portion of 64 Margaret to Low-Rise Residential.
- Why is a MIX-2 designation being applied to a portion of the 64 Margaret lands, which are within the Heritage District with current zoning MU-1 167U 561R? Can that portion of 64 Margaret be zoned MIX-1?
- Can we include 64 Margaret and 33 St Leger among the list of properties subject to Special Policies 13.1.3.? As the properties are already consolidated with frontage on Victoria St N, can we note that the provisions are to be effected through the Site Plan process? In general, how can we ensure that re-developed properties do not direct their servicing and traffic into the interior of the Civic Centre neighbourhood?
- Can the CR-1 properties along Queen between Weber and Ahrens be zoned MIX-1? MIX-2 would impose on Queen St.
- Can a height limit matching the existing building height be applied to 108 Queen St N (Sonneck House) given that it is a Part IV designated property inside the CCHDCP, so as not to mislead owners as to it potential use?
- Within FANZ, why do we want the front yard setbacks at 236 and 264 Victoria St N to be as large as 33.89m and to have parking in the front yard? Do we not want to animate the street? Do we not want parking at the rear of the buildings?
- Can we have, within the flanking UGC zones, height limits and/or stepback requirements, so that undue shadowing and inappropriate transitions are not created?
- Along Queen St N and Ellen St E, in the UGC, can we have a minimum 6m front and exterior sideyard setback, as opposed to the proposed 3m?
- What is the definition of an “appropriate transition”? How will planning documents ensure an appropriate transition, as required by the OP, from the low-rise residential interior of Civic Centre across Queen, Victoria, Water and Weber into more intensified zones?
- Can we have a height limit on the block encircled by Weber-Water-Victoria that affords the properties on the south-eastern side of Water St N an appropriate transition?
- Should we permit a greater density of legal, regulated lodging houses throughout Kitchener? How many legal and illegal lodging houses are there presently in Olde Berlin?
- Do we want to encourage more lane houses/coach houses?
- Why is Lancaster/Mansion RES-6 property not listed as RES-3?
- Quote: “I don’t live in the Civic Centre but I take a lot of pleasure from walking through it which I do frequently. It gives me a sense of the history of the city and is a peaceful zone in the core.”
- Quote: “I like the lanes for walking and biking. I wish they were better groomed.”
- Can we continue the bike lane along Margaret/Otto from Victoria to Frederick?
- Many neighbours did not receive notice of the planning review because not notified via mail.
- The December 12th consultation date was too close to the holidays and competing obligations to permit adequate participation.
- How can we include cultural heritage landscape policies?
- How can we ensure that the heritage value of the green spaces and trees are protected?
- How can we add more storey-telling signage?
- Can we improve placemaking in the neighbourhood?
- Can we bring in heritage style street lighting?
- How can we add more street furniture?
- What are the next steps in the neighbourhood planning review process?
- How can we ensure more green space?
- How do we add more green canopy, on both city land and private property, to prevent heat capture?
- How do we ensure that the neighbourhood does not get split into two communities on either side of a more intensified Margaret? Would neighbourhood cohesion be harmed?
- What regulations do we have/need to allow for new porches where an old porch was removed long ago?
- Can we add requirements for laneway lighting and streets where current lights are obliterated by trees?
- How can we ensure the availability of affordable housing options?
- How can we ensure that new developments include more 3 bedroom and larger units to ensure that families can remain in the neighbourhood?
- How does Central Frederick Neighbourhood feel about having properties along Lancaster transferred out of their plan? Are they being consulted?
- How can we ensure that the Committee of Adjustment and Zone Change applications processes do not undermine these communally-achieved Secondary Plans?