Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Regulating Driveway Widths: The Why

Council has been looking at a bylaw to limit the widths of driveways in the city.  Is it because we are communist overlords who take pleasure in dictating what people can and can't do on their property?

Not quite.

Each year, Grande Prairie sees more and more property owners expand the length of their driveways. As more and more properties have their driveways extended, a number of issues have arisen that affect the rest of the neighbourhood.  The top 3 include:

1. On-street Parking

The more driveway space there is on a street, the less space there is for vehicles to park. While property owners create more parking space for themselves, they are limiting the public space available for their neighbours.

2. Snow Storage

As more and more driveways are widened, the amount of space that snow can be moved to is reduced.  There are some properties where there is little to no lawn space as driveways have been extended the entire property length.  Thus, to clear the driveway, snow must be pushed onto neighbour's lawns or out onto the street. I get complaints of this nature on a regular basis during the winter.

Quite simply, snow must be put somewhere. As the length of driveways proliferate, the area for snow storage decreases which frustrates neighbours who have to deal with the extra snow and/or slows our snow removal crews down as they contend with extra snow on the road.

3. Drainage

Our storm water management systems are designed to handle a flow of water based on a set amount of hard surfaces in a neighbourhood.  Calculations are made with the assumption that a certain volume of water will be absorbed by permeable surfaces (ie. lawns).

If the area of permeable surfaces is reduced, there is an increase in the runoff that makes its way into our storm water system. As more pavement and concrete is added to a neighbourhood, there is greater strain on the system during heavy rains and the chance of flooding is increased.

As these issues have become more prevalent in recent years, Council decided to look at regulating driveway widths. (BTW...we're one of the only cities in Alberta without a driveway width bylaw).

There are a couple of ways to regulate driveway widths. You could set a maximum width for each driveway (ex. 20 ft). You can also set the maximum to be a percentage of lot width. This is the route that the Community Growth committee went with. They are recommending to Council that driveway widths be limited to 60% of lot widths. For example, if a lot is 40 ft wide, the driveway could be a maximum of 24 ft wide leaving at least 16 ft of grass, flower beds, etc.

One of the concerns that was raised by the building community was that the 60% rule would really limit the number of houses with 3-car garages that would be built.  Committee is recommending that for homes with 3-car garages, the driveway width could be 70% of lot width (with min. 44 ft. lots).

I have some concerns with the equability of this change. Should someone with a 3-car garage be subject to different rules than someone with a 2-car garage who wants to put an RV pad in? It is not sitting right with me and I intend to look further into the implications of this change.

Council will be voting on this bylaw amendment on June 29th. I look forward to hearing your comments and thoughts on the issue.

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