Peterborough is embracing a new type of subdivision that's built around a range of housing types, smaller neighbourhood parks within a few minutes walking distance of homes and rear laneways for some units.
After a 96-unit test case with the first phase of the Avonlea subdivision was completed last year, city council endorsed Monday night what one city official referred to as the largest subdivision plan in the community's history with the 761-unit second phase of Mason Homes' Avonlea.
John Gallen lives in one of the laneway houses in the first phase of Avonlea in the city's north end, near the intersection of Franklin Dr. and Neptune St.
"I love my laneway house".
"This laneway idea — it's new, it's strange ... but that doesn't mean it's a bad idea."
The new urbanism planning principles include reduced setbacks between buildings and the streets; narrower lots; and reduced width for streets.
The second phase would be built between Chemong Rd. and Hilliard St., north of Milroy Dr. and west of the first phase.
Nobody drives fast through Avonlea streets or in the laneway because the houses are close together, which controls the traffic, Gallen said.
"It's about the people who live in the community and about what we want to pay for when we buy these homes," he said, urging council to support the second phase of the subdivision.
It's not a "cookie-cutter-type subdivision," Renato Romanin said.
"This particular community provided the qualities that we're looking for," the Avonlea resident said.
Some council members expressed concerns over the increased cost of maintaining rear laneways. Consultants who spoke on behalf of Mason Homes argued that rear-laneway homes generate more tax revenue by increasing density as well as higher assessment for rear-laneway homes compared to front-garage homes on a similar lot.
Steven Wimmer, a planning consultant MBTW Watchorn, described to council the proposed development.
Walkability, connectivity, compact neighbourhood, mixed use and diversity and mixed housing types are key features of new urbanism neighbourhoods, Wimmer said.
"Parks are open to streets; they're not in rear yards of homes," he said.
It would be a shift for the city, which has had a policy to concentrate park land in large blocks instead of smaller parks spread throughout the community to reduce the cost to maintain the green space.
Wimmer stressed the narrow streets, rear laneways and garages behind homes emphasizes the homes and the pedestrians over vehicles.
"The car has been put in a location secondary to the pedestrian and the front of the (home) facade," he said. "The plan is very green."
A central park is about three acres in size and other smaller neighbourhood parks are located to ensure that all homes are within at most a few minutes walk from a park, Wimmer said.
"Residents will walk to those parks," he said. "If there's one large park in the centre it means there is a chance it won't be quite as walkable."
Council endorsed a separate item to start the process towards changing the city's planning policies to allow new urbanism developments in other parts of the city. Staff would return with various reports on issues connected with the policy changes.
The Mason Homes subdivision is the largest single residential development in the city's history, Mayor Daryl Bennett said.
"It was significant to me that there were no speakers in opposition," he said after the public delegations.
It's an exciting development, Coun. Dan McWilliams said.
"It's going to be the largest development of its kind in Peterborough," he said.
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