City will implement new rules in Ancaster to prevent 'monster homes'

They're often called "monster homes" — houses built on lots where smaller ones have been demolished. The city is implementing new rules in Ancaster to make them fit in a little better.
In about 126 instances since 2012, people have demolished homes in older neighbourhoods of Ancaster and built new ones. Often, those homes are much larger, which neighbours say causes problems with drainage, privacy and the character of the neighbourhood. An example of that dynamic: a property on Terrence Park Drive in 2015, and that same lot in 2017. (Google Earth)

They're often called "monster homes" — houses built on lots where smaller ones have been demolished. Now the city is implementing new rules in Ancaster to make them fit in a little better with their neighbourhoods.

I'm going to smell their cooking. I'm going to hear their conversations. They're so close. It's ridiculous.- Sandra Whittaker, Ancaster resident

City councillors voted Tuesday to start a pilot project preventing people from building oversized homes in older neighbourhoods.

On some streets in Ancaster, neighbours say, homes as large as 11,000 square feet tower over bungalows. It messes with privacy, drainage and property values.

"It's really changing the feel of our neighbourhoods," said resident Sandra Whittaker at a council planning committee meeting Tuesday.

She's lived on McGregor Crescent for 21 years. Someone's building a much larger home right behind her, she said, so large that she worries she'll soon be staring at a wall.

"I know people who have walked in, made an offer on a home and didn't even want to see it," says Coun. Lloyd Ferguson. "They wanted to replace it with their dream home."

"I'm going to hear them," she said of her new neighbours. "I'm going to smell their cooking. I'm going to hear their conversations. They're so close. It's ridiculous."

Under the new rules, new builds in older neighbourhoods can be larger than the homes they replace. But compared to the current rules, they will have to be lower, located farther away from neighbouring homes, and occupy a smaller portion of the lot.

Lloyd Ferguson, Ancaster councillor, said he's been trying to push this through for seven years, while so-called "overbuilding" has continued to happen.

"I know people who have walked in, made an offer on a home and didn't even want to see it," Ferguson said. "They wanted to replace it with their dream home."

New rules 

From January 2012 to October 2017, the city says, 126 dwellings in Ancaster have been demolished and replaced, and another 31 additions built. Often, they take up a lot more space than what was there before.

City council still has to ratify the changes March 28. But under the new rules, the maximum height for a new build would be 9.5 metres for a two-storey home, down from 10.5.

As for lot coverage, a bungalow can occupy 35 per cent of a lot smaller than 1,650 square metres. A two-storey home can occupy 25 per cent of a lot that size, down from 35 per cent.

Also not allowed: second-storey balconies, decks and porches that protrude into side yards and garages that creep more than two metres past the home.

These rules apply to areas zoned "ER" — existing residential. In Ancaster, about 2,500 single-family lots fall into this category.

Most of those homes, the staff report says, were built during a post-Second World War boom in the 1950s, and are on purposely large lots for drainage reasons.

If successful, staff say, the new rules can be used in other areas of the city as well. 

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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