Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why not have narrower road right of ways?

On Orillia Street Saanich has a 20 meter wide right of way
It is amazing how wide the right of way for most streets is, much wider than anything I could imagine you would need it for.

In the case of my street one of the main needs for the right of way is for the sewer and water lines, but they are under the street and not in the edge right of way.   The other major use of the right of way is the the hydro poles which also carry the cable and phone lines.   They only run along one side of the street and are more than three meters from the edge of the right of way.

Overall the width of the road right of way for Orillia street is 20 meters, it could very easily be 14 meters wide with no loss to the municipality or the utilities.   This could add about 3 meters or 10 feet to the properties on each side of the street.   For a lot with a width of 50 feet, this would add 500 square feet to the lot.   The average lot on my street is about 6,750 square feet, this would increase the size of each property by 7.4%.

Reducing the right of way to 14 to 16 meters from 20 meters is not unreasonable.   A street like Niagara in James Bay only has a 16 meter right of way.

If the right of way on a street like mine were reduced by three meters from either side people would have more property to work with.  It would mean the front of a house could closer to the street and thereby allow more backyard.    It also offers more space for an extra small building on the lot which would increase the density.

For corner properties that gained land on their long side and not the narrow the increase in my neighbourhood would be 1200 square feet which is an 18% increase in property size and makes it large enough that subdivision becomes an option    The addition means two 4000 square foot lots become possibel

For the municipality a long term benefit comes from larger properties paying more in property taxes.   Any land owned by the municipality pays no taxes.

How would one go forward with this?   I would have municipal staff identify streets where this change might possible - over 15 meters wide for a residential street and no need for the edges of the right of way.   I would then offer to street blocks where if all the owners agree a reduction for it to happen.

To get the public to agree to doing this, I would offer some form of property tax relief.   Something like for 10 years or when a property is redeveloped, which ever comes first, the properties on the street get a 10-15% property tax reduction.

Overall taking land that is owned by the municipality and not providing a lot of benefit and transferring it to home owners would offer long term benefits to the community through encouraging more density without any dramatic change to a neighbourhood.
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