At the June 21, 2021 Oshawa Council meeting, councillors debated a motion that, if passed, would have seen staff directed to create a policy for the city to move away from back-to-back stacked townhouses and to promote larger parks.
The motion was brought forward by Councillor McConkey at a prior Development Services Committee meeting. It was passed by the committee 4-2, with councillors Hurst, McConkey, Marimpietri and Mayor Carter in favour, and Councillors Chapman and Kerr against. The motion was then pulled for discussion at the council meeting.
After vigorous debate, the motion lost on a 6-4 vote, with Councillor McConkey abstaining due to a conflict. Councillors voting in favour of the motion were Mariempietri, Marks, Hurst and Mayor Carter. Voting against were councillors Nicholson, Chapman, Giberson, Gray, Kerr and Neal.
During the debate, Councillors Nicholson, Giberson and Chapman argued that limiting back-to-back and stacked towns would remove housing choice, remove more affordable housing options and in order to meet density requirements would have to be replaced with apartment buildings that would not be appropriate in many areas, such as infill sites.
It should be noted that the motion was amended during the council meeting, but as of July 8, 2021, the meeting's minutes have not yet been posted, and the City of Oshawa's livestream technology does not allow for viewers to see amendments on the screen. However, based on discussion it appears that the amendment was to have the policy apply to future development and not to projects already underway.
The original motion read:
Whereas, on June 8, 2020, the Development Services Committee referred the following matter (Item DS-20-69) to staff:
Whereas, people need access to the trees and birds and wildlife for their wellbeing and mental health, to paraphrase a well-known Canadian author, our brains are hot-wired to want places outdoors, there's a reason people are more relaxed around trees than around concrete and glass and asphalt; and,
Whereas in 2020 high density urban areas without a readily accessible public space outdoors became a part of the pandemic problem, one takeaway from the shutdown is that our urban growth strategies need to factor in more green space, we need to start looking at ways to get more green space in our cities, people need to be able to go outside, they need more parks, this should be an essential service; and,
Now therefore, the City of Oshawa shall establish a consultative process during the process for urban design, secondary plans, infill developments and subdivision plans that gives strong consideration to the impact of COVID-19 and other future pandemics, and promotes larger parks and a move away from back-to-back stacked townhomes."; and,
Whereas, the City seeks the input of the public and other stakeholders on the location of residential areas to be developed of various densities, including areas that permit back-to-back stacked townhouses (considered apartment buildings by definition in Zoning By-law 60-94) as well as on the location and size of parks and open space areas through robust planning exercises and development review processes, including statutory public consultation under the Planning Act for such matters as new Part II Plans (i.e. Columbus Part II Plan), amendments to the Oshawa Official Plan and Zoning By-law 60-94, and applications for proposed draft plans of subdivision; and,
Whereas given the current housing market back-to-back townhouses and stacked townhouses are among the more affordable entry level housing types and provide an alternative to traditional mid- and high-rise apartment buildings; and;
Whereas, Habitat for Humanity is proposing to construct stacked townhouses as an affordable condominium home ownership model on lands acquired from the City at 485 and 501 Normandy Drive, a project that was the subject of recent approvals from the Committee of Adjustment for various zoning variances; and,
Whereas, stacked townhouses assist to achieve various housing density targets as mandated by the Province; and,
Whereas, the City has advanced the acquisition of additional parkland throughout the City such as in the downtown, older developed urban areas and in greenfield areas; and,
Whereas the City has recently advanced the development of new parks including the Ed Broadbent Waterfront Park along the waterfront, Dr. Blake Parkette and the Dale Hawerchuk Parkette in older developed neighbourhoods, and the Thornton Community Park which includes a bike park; and,
Whereas, as part of ongoing development in the City involving components of the Natural Heritage System such as creek valleys, wetlands and woodlots, the City acquires such areas for open space and recreation purposes that residents can enjoy; and,
Whereas, the City also advances the development of active transportation facilities such as multi-use paths, and recreational trails within parks and open space areas;
Therefore staff be directed to establish a policy and consultative process to promote larger parks and move away from back to back stacked townhouses.