November 17, 2010
CHLOE REDIO/TORONTO STAR
An East York woman woke up to a yellow notice on her windshield warning that her car could be fined or towed for being illegally parked in her own driveway.
The city notice states, “Park in front of garage door only.”
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Felicia Wang has lived at the same house on Parkview Hill Cres. for all her 25 years. She has always parked her silver Honda sedan next to her parents’ vehicle on the family’s double driveway, which extends past the single garage.
The notice that she was in violation of a bylaw came as a surprise.
“We parked three cars there when my brother used to live there. Why now, all of a sudden?” she said.
A new bylaw that restricts parking on residential driveways sparked outrage when it came into effect Oct. 1. While that bylaw is grandfathered and only applies to new developments, Wang was in violation of an old bylaw that requires residents to have a licence for a widened driveway, said Joe Colafranceschi, the supervisor of right-of-way management in the East York area.
About 13,000 homes in Toronto have licences for widened driveways, but Wang’s is not one them.
“They are parking illegally,” Colafranceschi said. “We may have received a complaint.”
Residents who want to park in a widened driveway must apply for a licence and pay the annual $200 fee, but Colafranceschi said the city has tightened restrictions on residential parking. Even if Wang applied for a licence, she would be refused because licences are no longer issued for Ward 31, where she lives.
“There are many wards in the city where it’s just not permitted anymore,” he said. “We cannot accept applications for front-yard parking any more in Ward 31. It doesn’t matter if parking was pre-existing or not.”
However, Wang said two cars fit comfortably side by side in the driveway. The idea that the familiar paved space on her parents’ property is illegal and should just exist as “dead space” is ludicrous, she added.
“I learned how to ride my bike on that driveway,” she said. “It’s never been an issue.”
She added that property owners should not be expected to be experts on bylaws — especially those that are rarely enforced.
“There’s an old bylaw and now there’s a new bylaw. People are going to get confused,” Wang said. “I guess to some people it can be an eyesore, especially if people park on lawns — but we don’t. We take care of our area so I don’t see why we should be ticketed.”
Homeowners aren’t the only ones confused. Some city councillors admitted they weren’t aware that they voted in favour of limiting the number of vehicles that can be parked on a residential driveway because the new bylaw was buried in nearly 5,000 pages of regulations and maps that make up the city’s harmonized zoning document. Since amalgamation in 1998, city officials have been standardizing bylaws, melding the bylaws of the six former cities that now make up Toronto.
Under the new bylaw, residents with a single-car garage can park one vehicle on the driveway while those with a double-car garage can park two.
The restrictions are meant to reduce clutter in residential neighbourhoods, but city officials have said bylaw officers won’t actively seek out offenders.
Refusal to comply could mean a trip to court and a fine of up to $5,000.
How exactly grandfathering of the new bylaw works is a question at least one city councillor is asking.
“It’s one of the things that we’ve got to get clarity on in the new term,” said Janet Davis, Ward 31 councillor. “I think it needs to be looked at and I know that there are several councillors who expressed that feeling as well.”