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Making dense development easier in the downtown core

New changes align city with provincial changes

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

A series of changes on paper could mean big things for Oshawa’s downtown core.

At a recent public meeting, council approved a series of bylaw amendments in order to align itself with changes to provincial growth plans and its own Oshawa Official Plan to further cement the desire for denser developments within the city’s downtown core.

Among the changes is the bumping of the density permitted under the city’s zoning bylaw to 550 units per hectare from 300 within the Central Business District, something the official plan already allows.

In terms of development, Paul Ralph, the city’s commissioner of development services, says this is just one step to making things easier when proposals come forward.

“For the Downtown Urban Growth Centre, it means one less hurdle for developers downtown if they now can comply with the higher density and don’t have to go through Committee of Adjustment or rezoning,” Ralph says.

“It just gives more flexibility in terms of encouraging more density downtown.”

And that’s exactly what the province is looking for.

After Oshawa’s downtown was designated as an urban growth centre by the province in 2006, it meant the city needed to strive for a density of 200 people or jobs per hectare. In 2015, Oshawa sat between 105 and 110.

It appears developers may be getting the message as a new proposal for student housing on Athol Street East could see a 188-unit apartment building with a density of 817 units per hectare. That project is currently being reviewed by development services staff.

However, with several proposed changes to a series of growth plans coming forward this spring after a lengthy public consultation process, it could mean some daunting changes for residential development in Oshawa.

Currently, the province has dictated cities must develop greenfield areas with the goal of having 50 people and jobs per hectare within their “built-up” area, and 40 per cent of new development must take place within this area.

If the draft legislation is approved, those targets could increase to 80 people and jobs per hectare, with 60 per cent of new development occurring within the built-up area.

Oshawa is currently struggling to meet the existing target of 50 jobs and people per hectare, and in 2016 was short of obtaining the amount of development in its built up area to meet the province’s 40 per cent target.