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New parking master plan will see fewer spaces in new downtown Guelph developments

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The City of Guelph is going ahead with a plan to reduce parking minimums for new downtown residential development.

City councillors ratified the downtown parking master plan at Tuesday’s council meeting.

The plan included a requirement that developers provide parking for potential tenants of residential units. The minimum requirement as suggested by city staff is .85 spaces per unit.

There had been calls to have no parking minimums for downtown residential units. One of them was from Mayor Cam Guthrie. Guthrie, who is in Copenhagen, Denmark, for a conference, appeared at the meeting through Zoom.

An amendment by Guthrie to eliminate parking minimums was defeated. While a majority of councillors want to get to zero, some believe we are decades away before even considering it.

“Cars are regrettably a reality in our culture right now,” said Coun Phil Allt, who moved the motion to approve the plan.

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“We are trying to renovate our road infrastructure. We need improvements on transit and on bike lanes.”

Those on council who were against reducing parking minimums were further concerned that tenants of those new developments would be forced to park elsewhere, such as in public lots or on the street away from their units.

Allt also believes there are those who have mobility issues and require a vehicle to get around the city, citing as examples “seniors who don’t have access to buses, can’t cycle, maybe don’t have a mobility scooter, or are in some cases are not well to use public transit.”

One of the delegates who was in favour of no parking minimums was Jonathan Westeinde, CEO of Windmill Developments Ltd., which is helping with the redevelopment of the Baker Street district.

“It is ultimately our market risk to provide a parking ratio that will result in a full building,” Westeinde said in his address to Council.

“It is also an opportunity to provide alternatives to car ownership.”

Another concern of Westeinde’s is having a surplus of available parking would limit the ability to provide other transportation demand management (TDM) measures.

“I think we are going to go in that direction,” said Coun. Rodrigo Goller on whether Guelph residents won’t own or drive cars.

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“My council colleagues are not ready for that shift. I think it is going to be a shift that happens perhaps later than I would have liked.”

The plan also contains a provision in which developers who don’t meet the minimum parking requirements can pay a fee-in-lieu that will be put in a reserve fund.

The approved motion also calls for staff to review the downtown parking master plan in 2028.