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we met when I came down to City Hall on Feb.4 ask about getting a permit for our laneway house at 242 Havelock Street. That was a month ago now. You scanned our survey and said you would be sending it to Fire Prevention Chief Doug Babcock, because of our missing 16 cm of walkway width.
Could you let me know when I can expect a response?
I got an auto-reply from your colleague Peter Raynes, saying he'd be away for another week. Since it's already been a month since I spoke to Mr.Raynes about the matter below, would it be possible for you to follow up for me? The issue is my desire to build a laneway house, essentially a granny flat. I'm getting pretty old, so my time might be a bit short :)
Peter did send your site plan to Toronto Fire Services for review and they replied that it does not meet the requirements for laneway suites. Also, TFS told Peter that they had already spoken to you about this issue which is why Peter may not have replied.
Thank you for your prompt response.
Peter Raynes said he would reply within 2 weeks so that's why I asked. Doug Babcock, when I met with him, said it was up to Buildings.
So far, the only written response I have from Buildings is yours.
It sounds to me like, despite what Chief Babcock told me about Buildings making the final decision, it's Fire who says no. So that means I will need to apply to Fire, not to Buildings, to get the reasons in writing, i.e. more than just "because I say so" -- since the decision is based not on the building code nor the fire code nor in the bylaw -- am I right?
New bylaws take a while to work out, and there are problems with the grounds for permit refusal here. (E.g. that a great many people in the central area are ineligible despite our ample properties and wide laneways.)
Please confirm that I can quote your response when I speak to my neighbours, to the councillors who are on the Planning and Housing Committee, and to any media who may get interested. If I have misunderstood you, clarifications are welcome.
Please call me if you would like to discuss this issue.
Dear Chief Babcock, After you and I and the Lanescape architects had our meeting in January, I went to Buildings as you suggested. Today I got their answer about our Laneway house -- namely that even though they have the last word on permits, if Fire does not agree, they will not give a permit.
So it's really Fire that's the block for permit requests from most of the houses in my neigbourhood despite our long properties and wide laneways. I remember some of your explanations, but I need them in writing because I want to go to the Planning and Housing committee and ask them to put the issue up for more discussion.
It would help to focus public discussion to see your department's cost-benefit analysis regarding the Laneway housing restriction of 1 meter walkway space to the back.
If such a document exists, could you send me a link?
If none exists, I could send you specific questions (width of EMS equipment, currently accepted widths of doorways into houses, laneway parking enforcement and snow clearing, etc.) that would focus the issues affecting citizens. Please let me know if that would help.
Sorry, I meant 90 cm, not one meter. But my request for the cost/benefit analysis is otherwise the same.
Dear Chief Babcock,
I've had no response to my March 4 request for more information, so I'd like to try again, restated.
Could you let me see any reports, analyses or other documentation that you used to make your 1-meter fire access requirement for laneway houses?
Sorry for the delay in responding, we are in the process of sending an internal memo to buildings outlining our minimum requirements allowed in lieu of Article 188.8.131.52. of the Ontario Building Code which addresses fire department access.
Also met with building department and the councillors office last week along with the gentleman that accompanied you during our meeting, who may be able to provide you with the additional information you are requesting.
Just as a heads up our office has been working on this over the last while and we are seeking a process change in order to hopefully adjudicate the fire access requirements early on in the process to provide certainty for individuals. I would note that the Ontario Building Code requirements are out of Council's control but we are working with Toronto Fire and Toronto Buildings with respect to these challenges on how to make this as easy as possible for people to construct a laneway suite.
Thanks for your email, and I'm glad to hear you're working on this. It would be nice to be included in the process, get an idea of the timeline, etc. I'm gathering more people, because the Centre for Local Research into Public Space (CELOS) considers laneways to be public space. I've begun an archive about laneway houses here.
The AODA is an important element for us.
Re my email to the fire prevention chief -- I still do need the documentation I asked for. He wrote back that you or Tony may be able to provide you with the additional information you are requesting. I had asked for "any reports, analyses or other documentation that [he] used to make [his] 1-meter fire access requirement for laneway houses." It doesn't sound like he plans to send me anything -- do you have the documents he may be referring to?
If not, don't worry, I'll just go through FOI. P.s. that was a really interesting committee meeting today, I'll follow up.
My understanding is that the requirement has to do with the Building Code. Sorry I don't know what he is referring to. However, we will discuss the issue of fire/emergency access to see if anything else is possible at our internal meeting with the appropriate senior City staff. I don't have anything with respect to timeline at this point. We need to meet and discuss any process changes that could take place.
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