A potential Land Use Bylaw (LUB) amendment that would allow a higher building height development standard in certain districts of the city may be considered by Airdrie City Council in the near future.

This comes after a lengthy discussion and debate at Tuesday's Community Infrastructure and Strategic Growth Committee. The potential amendment would apply to the R1-U, Urban Standard Residential land use district. According to the city LUB, 'The purpose of this district is to provide for residential development in the form of single detached dwellings on narrow lots with front attached garages.'

"The smaller lot dimensions in this district also allow for an urban standard of development where the City’s 16.5m road standard accommodates utilities within the public right-of-way and design requirements have addressed appropriate community and streetscape design."

Jeff Brunen, Senior Planner with the city told the committee that the request to amend the bylaw is to help accommodate the Mattamy Homes developer's housing product(s) without the need for significant variances.

" [It] allows them to use a housing style that's used in other municipalities that Mattamy builds in; it saves them time with their design team to have one housing template that they can apply to wherever they build," he said. "I think, interestingly, it helps balance their building height with a lot within a very proportional way."

Current regulations stipulate that building height is capped at 11 meters.

Current Airdrie Land Use Bylaw (LUB) regulations are shown in relation to the R1-U, Urban Standard Residential District. (Graphic credit to The City of Airdrie) the Current Airdrie Land Use Bylaw (LUB) regulations are shown in relation to the R1-U, Urban Standard Residential District. (Graphic credit to The City of Airdrie) the 

The proposed change would allow the height to be changed to 12 meters.

"... Providing that for every 25 centimetres, they increase the building and height, they add one meter to the lot to have a proportional amount, [and to not] have a large towering house on a narrow lot," Brunen added.

A graphic shown to the Community Infrastructure and Strategic Growth Committee, shows the comparison in home heights. (Graphic credit to The City of Airdrie)A graphic shown to the Community Infrastructure and Strategic Growth Committee shows the comparison in home heights. (Graphic credit to The City of Airdrie)

Concerns posed by committee members included shadowing, as well as the potential for privacy concerns. Councillor Tina Petrow observed what she said seemed like a considerable height difference. Mat Simmons, Manager of Land Development with Mattamy Homes responded to the query, saying that this ask is to simply align the developer's models that are being sold.

"There are a few limited elevations of certain models, which we've maintained the same roof pitch from those previous models we were selling," Simmons said. "We've widened our lots in our homes, and the top of those roof pitches just ended up being a bit higher, they're the same pitch, but the height just increases slightly. [This is to ensure that] we can still offer the same architectural variants that we offer in all of our communities."

He added that the developer does not expect a large number of homes would exceed the current height cap. 

Councillor Heather Spearman said that she was open to supporting the amendment, however, she said she would like more information on where the properties might be located, rather than the number of homes that would be potentially taller.

Deputy Mayor Al Jones also pointed out that while he believed Mattamy Homes would have their clients' best interests at heart, he worried that the amendment would open the door to other developers.

"If it was neighbourhood specific to the applicant's landholdings, I wouldn't have any concern... But different builders do not necessarily talk to each other. I'm thinking more, in the developments where you have several builders working in the same development."

Councillor Petrow continued to voice her concerns regarding the potential for the amendment to alter community aesthetics, saying that she would like to see a discussion or the potential to look at regulations that would enumerate that a 12-meter home and an eight-meter home would not be side-by-side.

Gail Gibeau, with the City, said that the land district in question, R1-U, does speak to different elements that the design criteria must address. 

"One of the items is the placement of houses with the same elevation and colour next to each other; there is control at the subdivision phase," she explained. "What we could look at, for existing lots that have been subdivided, [is] where they're looking to apply this. We can ask for additional context so that we can assess the applicability of that particular regulation."

Mayor Peter Brown asked Mattamy how many developers are employing these kinds of building standards, to which Mattamy Homes said that no other developers are building to these standards. 

Initially, it was suggested in the documents submitted to the committee that the committee recommends that City Council adopt the bylaw amendment. The committee also wanted to direct administration to bring back information to address the concerns of the committee, but there was confusion and debate over whether the committee could procedurally direct administration.

After a back-and-forth, it was decided that the committee would recommend to city council the bylaw presentation accepted for information. 

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