On June 1, I posted a short poll for residents to provide their opinion on regulations around widened driveways. The results indicated that almost three quarters of the 159 respondents were not in favour of permitting unlimited widening of driveways on residential properties. Of the choices offered, the most popular reason given was to “ensure the neighbourhood doesn’t look like a parking lot.” Feedback from several general comments indicated that among those who were opposed to unlimited widening, there was some consideration to permit widening to a certain extent.

The survey included the background preamble below, and then asked two key questions: “Do you think property owners should be able to widen their driveways as much as they like?”  And “When it comes to widened driveways, the following is important for me:” with five options provided along with an option to add a custom response.

Background: The City’s Zoning Bylaw stipulates what is permitted with respect to the width of a driveway, based on the specific zoning of the property. A general overview on this topic is available online here. There are valid reasons for establishing these regulations, including but not limited to:

• Environmental: more hard surface area means more stormwater run off, putting added pressure on the storm sewer capacity and maintenance. Soft landscaping is important in allowing water to soak back into the ground and is beneficial for soil and the roots of plants and trees.
• Emergency access: vehicles parked in front of steps or porches impede access to the home by Firefighters or Paramedics in case of an emergency.
• Aesthetics: vehicles parked three or four wide across a property with no breaks can make the street look like a parking lot.
Many home owners have widened their driveways – illegally or by permission through a minor variance – in order to park additional vehicles. City Council will soon review the current regulations for driveway widths in residential zones and I am seeking feedback through this survey to get a quick pulse on the community’s perspective.
(Full text of options: Being able to accommodate all vehicles; Ensuring the neighbourhood doesn’t look like a parking lot; Extra hard surface isn’t good for the environment; More enforcement of the bylaw is needed; Allow for more on-street parking options instead)
In cross-referencing responses with demographic information, housing type was only one that was significantly different from the general response rate of 27.7% in favour. Of the 111 respondents living in detached homes, 30 were in favour of unlimited driveway widening; right in line with the overall score of 27%. However, of the 32 respondents living in semi-detached homes, 37.5% were in favour. And just 2 of the 13 respondents (15%) living townhomes were in favour. This lower rate may be because in many cases there is limited space to widen a driveway for this housing type.
Thank you to all who responded to my survey. Soon, Council will be considering a review of the zoning bylaw with respect to widened driveways in residential zones. And later this year, Council is expected to consider a staff report about on-street parking as well, which is closely related to this issue.