By Trevor Busch
Rezoning a parcel of property on 56th Avenue to Medium Density Residential (MDR) has been approved following a split vote by town council.
At their Dec. 15, 2014 meeting, council voted 4-2 to pass third and final reading of Bylaw 16-2014. Coun.(s) Andrew Prokop and Jack Brewin opposed the motion. Coun. Joe Strojwas abstained, citing his absence from the initial presentation and discussion.
Bylaw 16-2014 will rezone a Residential Condominium district (RC) on 56th Avenue to a Medium Density Residential district (MDR). The lot in question is 5610 43rd Street (Lot 2, Block 4, Plan 0814274).
A previous Land-Use Bylaw amendment, Bylaw 14-2014, had been attempted on the same property which was unsuccessful.
This had been defeated due to concerns regarding setbacks and emergency egress. The subsequent MDR designation addressed the setback concerns, increasing the minimum rear yard setback to five metres from three metres.
“When we circulated it the first time, there was a lot of concern from emergency services, that there was no way in or out for the fire department and for police services,” said planning director Cory Armfelt on Dec. 15. “So the applicant — of course we can’t necessarily hold them to this at this point — but if this bylaw is passed, they’ve included a roundabout, a sort of turn around area, and that’s based on the radius the fire department provided for their trucks, as well as the expectation of a fire hydrant put in.”
At their Oct. 14, 2014 meeting, council had voted unanimously to defeat Bylaw 14-2014 on second reading. Previously on Sept. 8, 2014, council had passed first reading of Bylaw 14-2014.
If it had passed third reading, Bylaw 14-2014 would have rezoned a Residential Condominium district (RC) on 56th Avenue to a High Density Residential district (HDR), to allow for the construction of row housing rather than the original plan to build residential condominiums. Prior to the regular council meeting on Oct. 14, 2014 a public hearing was held on Bylaw 14-2014 to hear any presentations or submissions by affected parties.
At the Oct. 14, 2014 public hearing, there were no written submissions for or against the proposed bylaw, but there was an oral submission from the gallery.
“The area proposed for a bylaw change is directly north of my property. My biggest concern, aside from the increase in density and how that might affect property values – is the change in minimum yard set back,” said area resident Nicole Rasmussen, at the Oct. 14, 2014 public hearing. “If you notice, this development doesn’t include an alleyway, and the change in minimum setback from the Residential Condominium that it is currently to High Density Residential is a change of six metres to three metres. Without an alley, that means that those buildings could be within 10 feet of my backyard. I think that’s of grave concern to myself and my neighbours.”
On Nov. 24, 2014 council passed first reading of Bylaw 16-2014, and on Dec. 15, 2014 a public hearing was held to hear any presentations or submissions by affected parties. There was one written submission against the bylaw from Earl Young, citing concerns regarding the possibility of a higher volume of traffic on 56th Avenue, as well as potential noise issues.
An oral statement from Derek Udey, a resident of 56th Avenue, was also heard by council during the public hearing on Dec. 15.
“I’m opposed for a number of reasons, more than just the noise,” said Udey. “The development that has gone on there already has not been addressed, as far as the clean-up. I’m concerned, there’s 10 units behind me — I live directly behind — those people are having issues which I believe is diminishing the value of my property. How can we be sure if we go in and redevelop more development back there that it’s going to be any better? There’s been issues back there. I think you yourself, mayor (Henk De Vlieger), were back there taking a look yourself. There are people that are not happy back there, due to their problems, and how can we be sure it’s not going to happen again?”
Udey outlined some of the problems experienced by area residents regarding their existing properties.
“There’s been water drainage problems back there, basements have been taking on water, no matter what’s been done. I am from the same development, from Wailen Developments also, I know that the four homes that were built along that stretch, mine being one, Earl’s being one, those homes were built 300 millimetres, or one foot, below grade — nobody caught that. Not inspection, not the Town of Taber, nobody was held culpable for that. I had an inspector come to my door this summer still wanting to inspect my property, why is that? Why are we having these people come to our neighbourhoods, and look at the problems now? And we’re here today discussing whether we want more development in that area, under the same umbrella of Wailen Developments? I think that’s very wrong.”
Udey went on to describe the approval process for the current bylaw to allow for further development of the property as wholly not in the interest of that area’s current residents and taxpayers.
“The park that is down below is a catastrophe. The problems that have been brought up already have not been addressed, and now we’re going to let somebody else go in there? Clearly, if the Town of Taber goes ahead and lets this new development go through, they have their own bottom line as a best interest, and not the taxpayers who live in that very area. That’s clear.”
Coun. Prokop found Udey’s concerns regarding approval of the bylaw troubling.
“The last time this came up and was defeated, the reason was the two metre difference. I don’t recall anything else coming up at that stage. So to hear this gentleman’s comments now is a large concern.”
Mayor Henk De Vlieger acknowledged problems might be present with the existing development in the area, but considered the current bylaw a separate issue.
“I think there’s still issues here. One of them is the existing development that took place. If there was problems there, then it has to be dealt with. This new application stands by itself — unfortunately it’s probably the same people — but if there’s issues, then I think that should be a separate issue to be dealt with by itself. That’s how I think.”
CAO Greg Birch and planning director Cory Armfelt both indicated the town was aware of concerns in the area with regard to the existing development, and that steps were being taken to address those issues.
A representative of the landowner and developer responded to this challenge at the public hearing, indicating any problems with the existing development were not due to mistakes made by Wailen Developments, and had originally been inspected and approved by the town at the time of construction.
Council’s vote to approve third reading was taken after the public hearing and following subsequent discussion at the Dec. 15 meeting.