ACO Concerned about Zoning Inconsistencies

When the progress to the current Strategic Plan was reviewed in June 2017, CAO Stephen Peacock said that “now that the Official Plan is approved, new Zoning bylaws are required and scheduled for 2017-18”.  At the Council meeting on March 12, Glenn McGlashon, Director of Planning said that a review of the Zoning by-law is currently being done and should be ready by the summer.  He said that the process would include public meetings.  His remarks were prompted by a presentation by Diane Chin, representative of the Architectural Conservancy Ontario (ACO), Cobourg Chapter.  Diane pointed out that a large number of properties officially considered Heritage are currently zoned R4 or R5 which permits use as multiple residences. You may remember that zoning was recently a major part of the discussion about the use of a large old house on College Street even though it was zoned R3.

Diane Chin
Diane Chin

Diane made a logical case that:

Over 50 houses in Cobourg’s residential neighbourhoods have a zoning that would allow them to be replaced by high rise towers.  This means that these properties are vulnerable to unsympathetic development.

Specifically, the current zoning by-law has conflicts with the Heritage Master plan and should be fixed.  She then went on to review in detail the situation of each house where zoning is wrong.  Her presentation included photos of each house and some of the rationale and history behind the current zoning.  Although most of the houses are in a Heritage district, others are not but instead are individually designated.

Below is a sample of part of her presentation including some of the photos.  You can download her full presentation from one of the links below.

Sample of Diane's presentation
Sample of Diane’s presentation


You have to give credit to the ACO for being proactive.  Rezoning needs to be updated but it’s not as simple as referencing the Heritage Plan – more important is the Official Plan.  Any conflict with that can be taken to the OMB as we saw when there was a conflict over the legion development.  I understand that the Planning Department is “working on updating the OMB-approved version of the Official Plan”. So although the latest version is approved, it is not yet available to citizens.


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Walter L. Luedtke
17 March 2018 2:44 pm

Do not panic Duby, Frenchy, amd Ms.Q!
Cobourg already as a good mix of residential properties – among them of course rental apartments downtown.
A near .0 % vacancy rate for rentals means pent-up demand.
What is wrong with some savvy Senior selling his charming heritage property to a ‘frothing-at-the mouth’ builder in a hot market for a good buck?
Free enterprise, no?
Btw. I am glad that ACOs are a relatively recent phenomenon. If they had been around a couple of centuries ago we would be living in charming heritage log cabins and bumping along on charming corduroy roads.

Walter L. Luedtke
15 March 2018 4:45 pm

Just two more questions:
Why are the Jackson Houses on King Street West considered to be “heritage” or are they?
When will split-level bungalows or insul-brick and angel-stone siding be dubbed “heritage”?

Miriam Mutton
Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
15 March 2018 10:22 pm

Heritage is what happened yesterday and earlier. In all eras there was good building and poor building practices and examples. Heritage has to do with story of place and the people who built it. Heritage becomes part of today and tomorrow.

To answer you questions, it is my understanding that Jackson Houses were one of Cobourg’s early ‘subdivision’ houses and a style associated with a builder. A building design still desirable to buyers today, it seems. And, heritage districts include older and newer buildings. Will we ever see a split level bungalow or angel-stone siding building designated? Possible, for a variety of reasons … it is indicative an architectural style of its time, is associated with a person of historical and/or cultural significance, or some important event happened there.

And, the Mayor on 89.7 Northumberland radio today responding to a question about housing described planning rules permitting a separate suite to existing homes. Done well, this could definitely address affordable housing options around town including in existing stable neighbourhoods like heritage districts where housing type is often already mixed.

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Miriam Mutton
16 March 2018 9:07 am

Thank you Miriam for your thoughtful answer.
I agree that the ‘separate suites’ are a step in the right direction.
However, with an almost 0% rental vacancy rate, it is not enough.
Many Cobourg Seniors would like reasonably priced, centrally located rentals as a stepping stone between home ownership and a retirement residence.
As you know, we have an unusually large contingent of Seniors and their needs deserve attention.
Sooner or later, some heritage buildings in our ‘urban’ core will have to be replaced by higher density structures. To have single family homes within a stone’s throw of Victoria Hall may be charming, but hardly sustainable.
What disturbs me a bit about Ms. Chin’s presentation, is the hint of Nimbyism under a fig leaf of heritage.

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
16 March 2018 10:05 am

What is the problem with “Nimbyism”? If we don’t protect our neighbourhoods then who will? Your posting has a hint of supporting densification to the peril of Cobourg’s character.

Reply to  Dubious
16 March 2018 4:56 pm

Dubious, I agree with you.

There are far too many smaller communities that have been destroyed due to the pressure to build more. Many developers are frothing at the mouth waiting for a chance to make more money. Most don’t care about the community. They come in, build, make the money and move onto the next location. The character of many towns across Ontario is changed forever.

Walter, you state that there is a hint of Nimbyism? In my opinion, most people in Cobourg have probably decided to settle there due to its smaller size and charm. I applaud anyone who is fighting to preserve the history and look of this lovely town. They should be able to take a stand against densification and the destruction of the towns character without having the Nimbyism accusation thrown at them. If people prefer densification then they can move west.

Reply to  Susie-Q
16 March 2018 9:54 pm

Maybe because it hasn’t happened in Walter’s backyard yet.

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
18 March 2018 8:26 pm

It is my understanding that the Jackson Houses you are referring to date to around WWI. I believe that many, if not all, are at or near the 100 year mark. So yes, they should be considered heritage homes and should be protected from any demolition, in my opinion. By the way, the builders of the Jackson and Jex houses were from Cobourg.

Reply to  Susie-Q
18 March 2018 10:41 pm

See for a few details of when/what Reuben Jackson built.

Reply to  Dubious
19 March 2018 5:01 pm

Dubious….thanks for the link. Nice article!

walter luedtke
15 March 2018 10:43 am

Yeah well.
The affordable housing folks say that Cobourg has a rental crisis – only 0.3 % vacancy rate.
There are some people in this town for whom heritage is not a major concern, but a place to live is.

Bill Thompson
14 March 2018 10:50 am

As in the case of the Legion issue,any OMB involvement is a rubber stamp process/approval in favour of the applicant (developer).

Reply to  Bill Thompson
14 March 2018 11:26 am

I agree with you Bill. Also, it would be a shame to see the charming town of Cobourg be forever changed because of developers who want to build up. Usually these guys don’t live in the community and are really only interested in the almighty dollar. Hopefully, the vulnerable properties throughout town will not be torn down to make room for high rises. In addition, having a cap of five or six floors doesn’t always stick. In my community, zoning laws permitted the developer to build 18 floors, but it didn’t take long for this to be adjusted thus allowing them to go to 28 instead. What a shame.

14 March 2018 10:25 am

As someone involved with this issue, my concern is not just that an R4 or R5 Heritage home can be converted into several residences. This is sometimes a good use. My concern is that R4 zoning allows small apartment buildings and R5 large ones such as the buildings along King St. East. Block busting, I.e. buying one building and letting it deteriorate in order to encourage other owners to sell is a known technique by developers.
I would also like to give full credit to Greg Hancock, who spent endless hours gathering the information on existing zoning.

Greg H
14 March 2018 10:12 am

This is a useful and comprehensive report, especially with the links for more information.
Unless the Northumberland News mentions this, the Cobourg Blog will be the only public record!

Thank you, John Draper