Planning committee to consider scrapping old parking bylaw

More small restaurants and grocery stores may pop up in urban neighbourhoods, now that the City of Ottawa is overhauling a decades-old parking bylaw.

On Tuesday, the planning committee will debate amendments to a 1960s-era bylaw that requires minimum parking spaces for most developments in the inner urban core.

That current bylaw discourages people from leaving their cars at home and taking transit, a staff report on the new bylaw suggests, which doesn’t make sense if the city is pouring billions of dollars into light rail transit.

“This runs counter to the goals of encouraging sustainable transportation and increased use of transit given the significant investment being made in the city’s transit system,” it reads, adding that the current rules “can create uncertainty and conflict in the community.”

Under the new proposed bylaw, developments within a 400- to 800-metre walking distance from most light rail transit stations would not need parking. The exception is apartment buildings with more than than 12 units, in which case some visitor parking will be required.

The proposed bylaw also seeks to protect the character of old urban communities that have roots dating back to the days before most people owned cars.

On urban main streets, low-rise apartment buildings will be exempt from parking requirements, as will some artist studios and offices. Other non-residential buildings may still need parking, but half the spaces currently required.

If council ultimately approves this bylaw on July 13, it could also allow smaller grocery stores to set up in so-called “food desert” neighbourhoods like Mechanicsville or Centretown.

Currently, a 9,000-square metre Superstore has to provide 221 parking spots, while a small store like McKeen’s Metro in the Glebe would need 21.

Under the new bylaw, grocery stores smaller than 1,500 square-metres won’t need parking and the same goes for restaurants smaller than 350 square-metres (almost the size of an IMAX movie theatre screen).

The rules apply to non-mainstreet developments in the inner core, too, including the same 12-unit residential exemption already mentioned.

In written comments, the Lowertown Community Association said the proposed amendments don’t go far enough to encourage transit use. Rather, the group argues, this bylaw might put more pressure on street parking.

– With files from Emma Jackson

This article originally appeared on metronews.ca on June 23.