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Results of PAL Review

March 6th, 2007

The results of our PAL review arrived in the mail today and had a few surprises for us.

We were already expecting we were going to need to get a variance (at a cost of — cough! — $1400) if we didn’t want to have a garage in our house. It sounds crazy, I know but a city by-law says houses that want to have parking must provide that parking in a space 5.9m x 2.9m 2.6m behind the front wall of the house.

This means that to be by-law compliant, either one has to have a garage in their house, or they need to have a laneway beside their house so they can park behind it. Given the proximity of most houses to their neighbour in the city, one really has to go for the garage option or seek a variance, and neither option is straightforward.

If we were to opt for putting a garage in the house, that would mean we’d need to alter the foundation so it would not run under the garage. This means we’d not only lose a huge amount of ground floor space for the garage, we’d also lose the basement under the garage. (One can have a basement under a garage but it’s wildly expensive because of all the reinforcement needed to support a vehicle.) And because the garage traps (to some degree) carbon monoxide from the car’s exhaust, it’s not recommended to have the rest of the house directly over the garage so we’d have to cut back on the 2nd floor space as well.

Opting for no garage comes with a whole new set of problems. If there is no ‘legal parking space’ on the property, then we aren’t allowed having a driveway. If we have have no driveway, then 75% of the area in front of the house must be ‘soft opened landscape.’

This was the only item we expected to hear about (and we did), but it came with its own plausible escape clause: By-law 65-81 allows a homeowner to request a permit for a ‘parking pad’ in the front of the house, which just might make this whole issue go away (more research into this to follow).

What we weren’t expecting to hear is that the house is both a smidge too tall and has a smidge too much floor area. Alex thinks that we’re going to be able to work with the city on both these items to get the plans approved.

And that’s all there was; by and large our building plans are in generally good standing with the city, with just a few items to clarify for them.

One of the interesting items that came up during this process was with regards to the by-law which states the ‘gross floor area’ (the total area of all floors other than the basement) of a home can’t be more than 60% of the area of the lot (for our particular zone).

Apparently the real cap is at 100%, but starting at 60% they like to review the plans in more detail (i.e., you need a variance) to make sure the house is appropriate to its lot and surroundings. Generally, going a little over the 60% limit won’t be a show-stopper for your project.

As things are looking very positive on this front, we will soon be ready to start interviewing prospective builders to make these plans a reality!

Posted by Colin