Development Studies


Redevelopment of buildings on Côte Saint-Luc Road

Dear residents, 

All members of council are in favor of up zoning CSL Road to allow for higher buildings. To be clear no one wants to up zone the buildings between Dufferin and Stratford. Those building are too close to the homes on Dufferin, Finchley Place and Holmdale. So we are talking about the buildings between Stratford and the western limit of Hampstead (Alpine) only.

Why up zone?

The current buildings are 50-75 years old and many are in very poor condition. We need better quality new buildings to improve the look of the Hampstead part of CSL Road. Further, we need quality housing options for downsizing seniors and for young adults or young families. Finally, the extra tax revenue could be very significant and benefit the town in many ways.

How high?

That is the question that has so far divided council. My view is to first get maximum information and then to hold consultation meeting(s) and to survey residents. We now have had studies completed by top consulting firms in several areas: Urban Planning (BC2), Traffic (CIMA+) and Real Estate Development (The Altus Group). You will find all these studies here. Since there are several hundred pages, I will summarize the findings but I urge all residents to read the studies or at least the conclusions of each one.

Urban Planning – the BC2 report

This report looked at two key variables. One was lot sizes and the other was building heights (6, 8 and 10 stories). Regarding heights they looked at visual impact and shadowing.

Even at 10 stories, there is no shadowing at the peak of summer, June 21. Only in the spring and fall (March 21, September 21) is there some shadowing impact but it does NOT reach the buildings on Queen Mary Road but only the backyards of the closest homes for only part of the day.

As for visual impact, the report says it will be not be noticeable at 6 stories, noticeable at 8 stories and significant at 10 stories. There are illustrations in the report that you can view. However, these illustrations show the CSL Road buildings as grey blocks. Well-designed buildings will look much better than grey blocks.

The consultants doing the BC2 report did NOT consider the financial impact of different heights nor the likelihood of a developer building 6, 8 or 10 stories since they knew the Altus Group would be doing those studies. So based primarily on visual impact, they recommended 6 or 8 stories.

Is the visual impact really significant at 10 stories? Certainly, new buildings on CSL Road will improve the streetscape dramatically but what about the view from Queen Mary Road? I would suggest that unless you look for the new buildings you will not notice them. When you walk you tend to look straight, right or left but not up to the buildings behind the homes on Queen Mary road. Try this experiment. Take a walk on the west side of Finchley between Langhorne and Ellerdale. Look up over the beautiful and expensive homes on the east side of the street.  You will see old 16 story buildings on MacDonald. That is 6 stories higher than 10 stories but you probably never notice them when you walk around our Garden City. I believe it will be the same if there are 10 story buildings on CSL Road.

Traffic Study – CIMA+

This study showed that the increase in traffic will be trivial even with 10 story buildings along all of CSL Road. The increase in traffic in the morning rush hour will be from 1% to 6% eastbound and from 2% to 6% westbound. For the afternoon rush hour the increase will be 3% to 6% in both directions. The report also incudes some recommendations for improving traffic flow.

Tax revenue increases – The Altus Group report

The Altus study used the assumptions from the BC2 report to determine the number of new units at 6, 8 and 10 stories. They surmised half would be condos and half apartment buildings. They looked at the values of the current properties and current tax revenue from those properties. Then they estimated the likelihood of developers building at 6, 8 and 10 stories. They also assumed that high quality buildings would be built (not downtown Montreal quality but Hampstead quality).

The bottom line is found in three tables at the end of the report on pages 136 and 137. At 6 stories, there is only a 16% chance of developers building and the expected extra tax revenue if 16% of the lots are redeveloped is $339,000 per year plus a one-time amount of $510,000 for transfer duties (Welcome Tax).

At 8 stories, the probability of a property being developed rises to 42% and the expected new tax revenue would be $1,242,000 per year plus a one-time amount of $1,707,000 for transfer duties.

At 10 stories, the probability rises to 47% and the expected new tax revenue rises to $1,834,000 plus a one-time amount of $2,349,000 for transfer duties.

Conclusion and next steps

How significant is an extra $1,834,000 of tax revenue each year from 10 story buildings? 
It would easily cover the debt service costs for a new recreation centre in Hampstead Park with funds left over for additional infrastructure maintenance (roads, sidewalks, sewers and water mains), more beautification of our public spaces, more play equipment, more events for kids, teenagers and adults, a tennis club house attached to the recreation centre, etc. all while keeping local tax increases below inflation.

10 stories provide 50% more extra annual tax revenue than 8 stories, an extra $600,000 annually plus an extra $600,000 one time. To understand the importance of these numbers, one must look at Hampstead’s discretionary spending. Our budget includes many items over which we have no or little control. These include what we must pay to the Agglomeration, the CMM, salaries, maintenance costs (building, pool, tennis, parks), snow removal, public security and so on. What is left over is our discretionary spending which is only $2.8 million – not a lot to improve or create new services for the Town.

$1.8 million extra tax revenue from 10 stories is an increase in our discretionary spending of 64%. These are transformative numbers which will allow Hampstead to become even more attractive to people looking for a place to live. That, in turn, will lead to higher home values which in turn mean even more tax revenue. It is a virtuous circle.

So what should we do? Now that we have all the information, you will tell us what you want. There will be at least one consultation meeting and then a survey. Aside from building heights on CSL Road the survey will also cover many other items that we are considering for a new Urban Master Plan and we will be heavily influenced by your feedback from the survey. 

Sincerely,

Dr. Bill Steinberg

Links

Urban Planning – The BC2 report

Traffic Study – CIMA+ - Note this report is only in French but the conclusions on page 25 have been translated into English

Tax revenue increase – The Altus Group report