Saturday, July 26, 2014

New zoning bylaw to be unveiled

The public will get a look at the town’s new comprehensive zoning bylaw at council’s next regular meeting this coming Monday.
Over the past year, the bylaw has been revised to be consistent with policies contained in the Town of Fort Frances Official Plan approved by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing on Dec. 3, 2012.

Municipal planner Faye Flatt said everyone is encouraged to check out the new bylaw and see what their property is zoned as.
“If they are thinking of changing something or doing something, they definitely should check out [the bylaw] in case the regulations have changed for properties,” she stressed.
“In some cases, the setbacks have changed.
“What you can do on your property, how you can do it, and where you can do it is basically what the bylaw sets out,” Flatt explained.
Flatt and a planning consultant went over the town’s existing zoning bylaw line by line to bring it into conformity with the new official plan, and devise a document that is “customized to what the town should need.”
On top of that, “it’s a little easier to understand, a little easier to read,” said Flatt.
She added it also:
•reduces the number of zones;
•simplifies the language in definitions; and
•integrates diagrams and illustrations into the document for greater clarity.
Flatt said the new zoning bylaw doesn’t contain any drastic changes.
“We’re not throwing an agricultural zone right in the middle of the downtown core or something like that,” she joked.
“It’s pretty much the same.”
One change is that the “highway commercial” zoning definition has been renamed “enterprise” and the uses allowed have been expanded.
Another is several blocks of Scott Street have been changed from “general commercial” to “residential.”
Flatt noted a couple blocks of Scott Street—from Armit Avenue to the Memorial Sports Centre—currently is zoned “general commercial” because at the time that the current bylaw was created, the trend was to have businesses all the way down Scott Street.
Now, with vacancies downtown, the town wants to steer commercial development back towards the downtown core.
This will be achieved by changing the zoning for this section of Scott Street to “residential,” Flatt noted.
The zoning change to “residential” also would allow for expanded uses of properties in that area.
“The residential houses along there, even though they were zoned ‘commercial,’ they were grandfathered in, so there was some restrictions as far as development,” said Flatt.
“Let’s say they had a one-unit residence and they wanted to put an apartment in it,” she postulated. “They wouldn’t be allowed to do that without going through a planning process.
“This [new bylaw] has simplified that and opened up more opportunities for enlarging or expanding that residential use for them.”
Flatt said there have been opportunities for public input all along the process, and two or three people responded.
She also identified about 35 properties and contacted the individual owners about what she wanted to change and why, adding she wanted to have open communication and not have the owners come forward after the fact.
Flatt noted only one property owner said they would like to leave their property the way it is. She reviewed the file and the property was left as it was.
The public meeting is to be held Monday at 6:45 p.m. at the Civic Centre.
At Monday’s meeting, anyone may make a written or verbal representation to council either in support of, or in opposition to, the proposed new zoning bylaw.
Submissions from anyone not attending the public meeting should be submitted by noon Monday.
Additional information regarding the proposed the bylaw is available for review at the Civic Centre, as well as on the town’s website at www.fort-frances.com

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