Edmonton

City blasted for reversal in debate over front driveways in mature neighbourhoods

Edmonton community league leaders were crying foul at city hall Monday saying they were not told about plans to allow front driveways in mature neighbourhoods with back lanes.

City to permit front driveways for some infill homes even if back lane exists

Community league leaders want the city to keep streets in mature neighbourhoods driveway free. (Google street view)

Edmonton community league leaders were crying foul at city hall Monday saying they were not told about plans to allow front driveways in mature neighbourhoods with back lanes.

The plan is now for "radically changed" driveway access, said Irene Blain, representing the West Jasper/Sherwood community league.

An urban planning committee meeting in February concluded with councillors agreeing that front driveways not be permitted when new houses are built in neighbourhoods with back lanes, Blain said.

But changes to zoning plans for mature neighbourhoods introduced Monday allow front driveways even if back lanes exist, but only if more than 50 per cent of the street already has a front drive and there's no front boulevard with trees.

The purpose of the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay is to create pedestrian-oriented streets, said Bev Zubot, with the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues.

"Front driveways break up the sidewalk and create mobility issues," Zubot said.

Front driveways 'architectural mistake'

Coun. Michael Oshry said some people argue they lose too much backyard space with a garage in back and prefer a front drive.

But Zubot argued that while some space is lost, overall a homeowner gains more green space as a back driveway doesn't need to be as long as a front entrance.

Home builder Mick Graham described front driveways as an "architectural mistake," saying they don't add to the walkability of a community.

"I think they're hideous," he said.

After several hours of discussion, city councillors passed the by-law, which doesn't come into effect until September.

In the meantime, city staff have been asked to draft a change to the by-law that would address concerns raised by the community leagues.

Those changes will go to city council in August before the by-law takes effect.

"The front drive garage on non-treed boulevard streets needs to be discussed a little further," said Coun. Andrew Knack.

Blain would like to see councillors return to where they were in February and not allow front driveways at all when it comes to new development in mature neighbourhoods.

"I'm hoping," she said. "The bottom line is they need to focus on what they're trying to achieve and that's pedestrian-friendly streets, period."