City planners cite safety, sense of community as reasons to ban 'snout houses'
Staff say protruding garages obstruct view of street, neighbours
A new report is recommending Windsor take steps to keep "snout houses" from turning its streetscapes into "walled fortresses."
The layout featuring houses dominated by protruding garages is popular in the city's newer neighbourhoods, but city planners argue there are good reasons to stop snouts from sticking out like sore thumbs.
The report was produced as a result of a council question from Ward 4 councillor Chris Holt in 2016.
"Every single development proposal crossing our desks ... contained warnings about snout houses from [Windsor Police]," Holt told CBC News.
"So I thought I'd ask for the report so we had a policy on the books."
Increased chance of 'unlawful activity'
Windsor police director of planning and physical resources Barry Horrobin authored the numerous warnings against snout houses.
"In a snout house neighbourhood, because there is more space that is somewhat shrouded ... it's more difficult to naturally observe activity," he said.
"When you're not able to naturally observe activity, then it increases the opportunity for unlawful activity to happen."
Horrobin notes that while some developers have listened to his concerns and modified plans, others have not.
Design a result of consumer demand
Ben Klundert is president of home builder BK Cornerstone. He's also a past president of the Windsor Essex Home Builders Association and has constructed houses for 37 years.
He concedes that snout houses are not the most aesthetically pleasing configuration, but explained developers build them as a way to balance government and consumer demand for affordable housing with the strong desire for two-car garages.
"We don't create demand, we act on demand. If people are telling us they want a two-car garage on a small lot, we try to find ways to do it that are affordable," he said.
"If the appearance isn't the greatest or it if creates a safety hazard — and the homeowner seems to be okay with it — I don't know where the problem is."
Klundert added if builders are forced to reduce the size of garages, it will create issues with street parking.
"That will be the next big issue," he said. "[Residents will say] there are too many cars on the street!"
Some home buyers concerned
Real estate agent Joan Charette says she can't recall a client ever specifically asking for a snout house during her 12 years selling houses in the region.
Some of her single or elderly clients, however, have avoided snout houses over concerns for personal safety.
"When you're walking to your front door, it's quite buried," she said. "They feel not as safe as when your front door is actually on the road and your garage is beside or even back a bit."
Report goes to committee Monday
The staff report, which was prepared by planner Jim Abbs with extensive input from Horrobin, will be considered by the city's planning, heritage and economic standing committee during its meeting Monday and makes the following recommendations:
- The planning department should continue to discourage home builders from constructing snout houses
- Any future secondary plans for annexed lands (such as the Sandwich South area) should prohibit snout houses
- Planners should consider banning the construction of snout houses across the city through an amendment of Windsor's official plan
Abbs writes that snout houses are a "symptom of our addiction to the automobile" that cuts off people's connection to their community by isolating them.
"In the worst cases, streetscapes become like walled fortresses, with only small trails to passages providing evidence of life inside," reads the report.