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Laneway House notebook (1)

Jutta Mason

backyard - - yard side to side 26', laneway to house 93'

walkway - 86 cm, 64 at chimney.

back of property

laneway width: 12' -- north end is Bloor
Dec.7, 2018, from Lanescape

The 1.0m access requirement actually does not originate from the zoning by-law. The requirement is based on the typical required route for fire fighters and emergency personnel to access the rear of the property. That said, you may not have any issues complying with the by-law, but this may be flagged as part of the permit review process where the fire marshal office is one department that reviews drawings prior to issuance of permit. This means its highly unlikely youíll require committee of adjustment (which is a great thing).

Instead, your architect (whether its Lanescape or otherwise) would negotiate the emergency safety provisions with the fire marshal on a case-by-case basis. Considering you have 0.86m access, this may be an acceptable route as is, or we may be able to get approval if alternative provisions were made in the design of the suite (like sprinklers, fire alarm etc).

Dec.18, 2018, to Brandon Leal, assistant to City Councillor Ana Bailao (she was one of the two sponsors of the laneway housing bylaw to council)

We want to build a laneway house behind 242 Havelock St., and there is 86 cm space between our semi and the neighbour. I need to talk to someone in the fire marshal's office to find out what extra fire safety measures they require when there is less than a meter of space.

Could you let me know a name and a number to call? I phoned the general fire services admin number but they did not get back to me.

Dec.18, 2018, from Brandon Leal, assistant to City Councillor Ana Bailao

The minimum separation distances are part of the approved laneway housing zoning bylaws and were developed with the input from fire services based on their needs. I donít think the 86cm width meets the bylaw requirements and as such you would likely need to go to Committee of Adjustment to seek a variance to allow this where Planning and likely fire services would comment on the proposal.

To get the best information on the potential bylaw/zoning variances and restrictions I recommend speaking with Graig Uens or George Pantazis, the City Planners who crafted the bylaws on the laneway housing issue. Their phone numbers and email addresses are at https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/planning-development/planning-studies-initiatives/changing-lanes-the-city-of-torontos-review-of-laneway-suites/

Dec.19, 2018, from Lanescape architect Tony Cunha

I had a real productive call with the city this morning regarding the access requirement. Here are the details:

As suspected, the 1.0m requirement and other fire fighting access provisions are not included in the laneway suite by-law. These are captured as part of building code (permit) review.

The access requirement is not stipulated in the Ontario building code or Ontario fire code. The only note here is that your structure needs to be within 45m of a curb or fire hydrant.

The 1.0m requirement comes from the cityís fire marshal. It was a request they made of the building department to ensure access. This is not on any legal document, just a rule that the city has imposed on the review process.

I spoke with Tim Ashton Ė the plans examiner for Toronto and East York. He told me that the chances of being approved with less than 1.0m of access are unfortunately very slim. I explained to him your situation, and he feels its unlikely to be approved, but it could be worth a discussion with the fire marshal.

To avoid sinking any money or unnecessary time into this, my suggestion is that you pay a visit to the permit office at city hall, come prepared with a few photos of the walkway and explain the situation to them directly. I think it will go a long way if the homeowner was the one bringing this to them. Also suggest you speak to or get the contact info for someone at the fire marshalís office that can give you a definitive yes or no. I will of course be available to assist with anything you need in the meantime.

Hopefully this isnít the end of the road for this project. It would be a shame if 14cm made the difference in building a laneway suite or not.

Dec.19, 2018, to Brandon Leal, assistant to City Councillor Ana Bailao

This will be a big issue for people in Ana's ward and we might as well start a conversation. A whole bunch of my neighbours want to get together and talk about it. If it turns out that old people like me have to end up in a crummy nursing home instead of being able to stay near our kids, because of a missing 16 cm, and rental housing that could have been built is prohibited -- bad optics for this "density" aid.

But that may not be what happens. So I will need to speak to the Fire Marshal. Any idea who that is and how I can set it up?

P.s. I'm inviting my fire fighter friend to come up to my place, so she can explain to me what they have trouble with when they put out garage fires.

Dec.20, 2018, from Brandon Leal, assistant to City Councillor Ana Bailao

Completely understand where you are coming from and you raise an interesting point. Having the benefit of Toronto Fire's comment on this would definitely be helpful. Let's reconnect in the new year with Toronto Fire staff as this is not something that will be resolved over the holidays as many staff are away over the break.

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Content last modified on March 05, 2019, at 03:48 AM EST