Monday, December 7, 2009

Getting zoning information and old air photos of your property

If you are thinking of purchasing a new house in Ottawa, the City's eMap service is a great information source to check before you go to see the house.

From eMap, you can find out where the property lines are, zoning, frontage, depth and area of the lot, the ward and councilor and even the garbage pickup day. Of particular interest to look up are the old air photos of the property you are interested in. Typically, high resolution air photos from 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2008 are available. If an addition has been added to the house in the last few years, you may be able to see it on the air photos (which may then prompt you to ask the seller if they had permits).

The map will also tell you the zoning of the property. This is good information to know before you purchase. You don't want to buy a nice detached house on a quiet street only to find out it is zoned for high density housing and that most of your neighbours' houses may be torn down to make way for semis or townhouses. It's also helpful to know who your neighbours might be. That open field behind the house might be nice now, but it could be zoned for commercial activity and the next thing you know, there is a strip mall there.

The city of Ottawa website offers information on interpreting the zoning. But generally, if you are buying a residence, the zoning will most likely be R1, R2, R3, R4, or R5. R1 is the lowest density (restricted to detached dwellings) and R5 is the highest density (including mid-rise apartments). Specific information on zones, such as the purpose of the zone, permitted uses, subzones, and provisions - such as required setbacks from the property line - can also be found on the City's website.

The provisions of the zoning are a great thing to check before you make an offer on the house, particularly if you are planning to renovate. Your great plans to add a big addition on the back of the house may be scuttled when you find out the minimum rear yard setback is 6 metres or the maximum lot coverage is 25%.

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