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Commercial downtown Guelph parking

Thinking of opening or moving your business to the downtown core? Why wouldn’t you. The location is easily accessible by all parts of the city, many different property zones will allow you to operate there; the architecture and community are second to none.

One often over looked aspect is parking; the ugly parking lot or lack thereof can make the beautiful Victorian Red Brick you had your eye on obsolete.

To operate a business with a City of Guelphs acknowledgement and business license; the property must meet the parking requirement for the intended use. In the downtown core many properties do not have the foot print to handle the parking required by city bylaws. The downtown area has numerous zones that cover a slew of uses.

The Zones and parking requirements:

Residential(R), Commercial Residential(CR), Office Residential(OR), Service Commercial(SC) and Commercial Shopping Centre(NC,CC,RC)

All of these zones are found downtown and across the city. As a result, many downtown properties may not handle the parking requirements that are easily met by properties with more land outside of the city centre.

Parking requirements vary by different uses, some are spaces per use basis, others by the Gross Floor Area (GFA) of the establishment.

Here are some basic uses and required parking spots.

  • Office: 1 per 33 m² G.F.A.
  • Retail Establishment: 1 per 16.5 m² G.F.A.
  • Restaurant: 1 per 7.5 m² G.F.A.
  • Day Care Centre: 1 per 10 children plus 1 for the facility.
  • Medical Office: 7 per practitioner

It becomes very clear your 1800 sqft., red brick office building needs a much bigger lot to handle 5 parking spaces.

Commercial Business District (CBD)

This property zone is only found in the downtown core at the moment; it offers many different uses but little to no parking requirements. This is clearly a preferred property zone from a parking requirement point of view, but it comes with a higher price tag, tax rate and smaller inventory.

Exceptions to the Rule:

If you are looking at property that don’t offer enough parking spaces to meet the bylaw requirements there are a few remedies.

Minor Variance:

If a certain property does not have the required parking spaces you can apply to the Committee of Adjustment for a minor variance. The process can take several months and there are costs involved, even if variance is not granted.

From past experience If variance is granted once, precedence is not necessarily set and you may need to go through the process again.

If you’re interested in making an offer on a property that needs a variance, talk to your Realtor, discuss the process and the possibility of making an offer conditional upon minor variance being granted.

Right of use over another property:

The committee of adjustment has granted parking variances in the past with having parking spaces on another property, within reasonable walking distance.

Churches and other property owners that have ample parking spaces used only a portion of the time, can deed you access to parking spaces; for the committee to accept this, the spaces must be granted to you on title.

Grandfather clause:

Grandfather clauses exist if a property has been used against current bylaw provisions for a continuous, certain amount of time. These clauses can be in place for the use of parking, even use of land over another property.

Use caution when considering a property for the sole purpose of what the grandfather clause grants. A letter from the city, or stipulation written on the land title is the only sure way to know if the clause is legal and binding.

The future:

The City is currently looking into expanding the Commercial Business District (CBD) zone with its relaxed parking regulations. How far out the CBD boundary will go, is still being discussed and a best guess on when the change happens is in 4 or 5 years time.

I think property prospecting on future use will play a bigger roll in the years to come.

The bottom Line:

Use your Realtor, Commercial properties are the same as any, they have a lot of over hanging factors that could cost you. Your Realtor will help you sort through the bylaws and regulations that will harm you if over looked.

Don’t have a Realtor? I am more then happy to interview for the position.

1 Response
  • Scott Findlay
    January 27, 2015

    Great article… learned a few things… very helpful for my clients. .. thanks Mike.

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