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Daveography

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Residents of two well-to-do neighbourhoods are threatening to sign legal caveats with their neighbours to prevent the city from letting developers subdivide and build two million-dollar houses instead of one.

“We will defend ourselves,” said lawyer and Valleyview resident Philip Renaud.

“People like me bought from the original owners in the neighbourhood, bought the house on the understanding that this (large-lot character) would continue in our neighbourhood,” said Renaud, threatening to organize a restrictive covenant for the neighbourhood. “(Aspen Gardens) is already doing that and we will do it in our neighbourhood if we have to.”

Full story (Edmonton Journal)
 

Daveography

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Changes to the city’s development rules are meant to turn around some slumping infill numbers and make neighbours happy, as well. But for it to work, some money has to be spent on inspectors to make sure those rules are followed.

A report coming to the city’s community services committee Tuesday suggests doubling fines from $250 to $500 for companies that leave dirt and debris on streets and sidewalks around homes being built in mature communities. It also recommends increased fines for noise violations from $250 to $500.

For it to be effective, though, more staff are needed. Administration is recommending two options. One involves hiring one infill compliance co-ordinator to do regular inspections of properties. The other involves creating an infill compliance team that includes a community standards peace officer, a development compliance officer and a safety codes officer to do the inspections.

Full Story (Edmonton Journal)
 

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Expect debates over lot splitting, skinny houses and condo towers to sweep across the Edmonton region as a new growth plan proposes infill targets for communities such as St. Albert and Sherwood Park.

The Capital Region Board’s draft plan released this week calls them “intensification targets.” If passed, each regional city and town would be required to submit a strategy for higher density redevelopment in existing areas. That means St. Albert should expect the same angry neighbourhood debates Edmontonians are having on infill policy.

“The debate is hard,” said St. Albert Coun. Cathy Heron. “Because people who live there feel like they own (the neighbourhood). … People just have to understand that if you don’t do it, then to house the same number of people we’re expecting out in the green areas is just not feasible.”

Full Story (Edmonton Journal)
 

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A new, 10-unit row house complex that passed with community support at public hearing Monday has one councillor hoping Edmonton has turned a corner on the infill debate.

“I truly believe three years ago we wouldn’t have even had a conversation to begin with,” said Coun. Andrew Knack, who watched neighbours in West Jasper Place negotiate with the developer and win several concessions before giving their support. “The community didn’t come to the table and say, ‘No, we don’t want this at all.'”

The row houses by Caliber Master Builder will replace three single-family homes on 153 Street, just north of 95 Avenue. Five two-storey, three-bedroom units will face the street. The avenue will have one storey of small shops and a café with five more units of row housing on top.

Full Story (Edmonton Journal)
 

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Imagine a new school that converts into seniors housing as the neighbourhood matures.

That’s one design in front of Alberta Education as cities, school boards and developers await legislative changes this spring. They could dramatically change the way schools are seen and built in new neighbourhoods.

Edmonton is lobbying the province for the right to build seniors or affordable housing on top of new schools. Qualico, developer, submitted a plan to finance new construction by treating the school site as a mixed-use development. The local developer would be a long-term landlord, changing the space as needs of children, seniors and families shift.

“If you build a 900-student K-9 school in a new neighbourhood, probably within two years, that school is going to have 1,200 students that want to go” there, said Ken Cantor, Qualico’s vice-president of commercial development. “Then within 10 years it’s down to 800 students and 10 years after that it’s 450 students because the neighbourhoods mature.

Full Story (Edmonton Journal)
 

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Edmonton neighbourhoods in revolt over residential lot-splitting
It’s not just lawn signs now. Legal measures to prevent any increased density are starting to take hold in half a dozen mature neighbourhoods.

Most residents of Westbrook have already signed a restrictive covenant to prevent lot-splitting or duplexes in perpetuity and several other neighbourhoods are organizing.

“There’s a tremendous number of people upset with this,” said Victoria Archer, a lawyer and resident of Capilano, which scheduled a set of community meetings on restrictive covenants starting next week. “People here are furious with city council, absolutely furious.”

In April 2015, council amended the zoning bylaw to allow anyone to subdivide a residential property at least 50 feet (15.24 metres) wide. They saw it as a fair way to permit a gradual increase in density across the city. But although the deliberations were covered in the media and council held a public hearing, many people didn’t find out until a subdivision happened in their neighbourhood.

Full Story (Edmonton Journal)
 

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David Staples: Restrictive covenants might be killing a fly with a sledgehammer, but that's OK
Many Edmontonians are so ticked off with the city’s new plan for lot-splitting and skinny homes that they’re talking about putting restrictive covenants on their own homes. The covenants will forever forbid their properties from being subdivided into two lots.

But are they killing a fly with a sledgehammer? That’s how it looks.

Choice quote:
But there’s a major negative with restrictive covenants, says real estate agent Camron Rahmanian: a decrease in resale value. “When you restrict the number of people who are looking at your property, it really hurts you.”

Full Story (Edmonton Journal)
 

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Review use of restrictive covenants in Alberta, urges planning prof
Albertans make greater use of a powerful legal device to limit the future use of private land than other provinces do, and may be harming their own communities the process, says the head of the University of Alberta's planning program.

Sandeep Agrawal says restrictive covenants registered against a property's land title, are most often used by developers to enforce architectural and design guidelines in neighbourhoods, but have also been used by companies to restrict competition and are now being used as a weapon by residents to fight City Hall.

Full Story (CBC Edmonton)
 

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A rental suite in the basement helped Angela Mao buy her Forest Heights home seven years ago.

That $900 a month in rent was critical for her family’s $1,500 monthly mortgage payments.

Now, as council considers extending that right to owners of skinny homes, duplex and row houses, Mao said it’s fair and the best way to bring families into the neighbourhood.

“Infill really isn’t affordable. It’s the basement suites and garage suites that make it affordable,” said Mao, who lives in an older bungalow, but watched four skinny homes and three duplexes go up on her street.

Parking hasn’t been an issue, since most homes have garages in the back, said the young mother and civics director for Forest Terrace Heights Community League. Instead, the increase in residents has helped local school enrolment, the sustainability of the local play school, and prompted two day cares to open last year.

Full Story (Edmonton Journal)
 

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Buy a home on a street with a boulevard of trees and, studies suggest, you’ll be as happy as if you had a $10,000 raise.

Put windows along the front of your house, and cosy it up to the street — about three meters from the sidewalk. That gives you the best chance of both keeping your privacy and knowing your neighbours. Again, a happiness booster.

The city is currently conducting an online survey seeking public opinion on zoning rules for mature neighbourhoods — that is, standards that should be adopted for infill homes or improvements to existing homes. The questions tackle a range of topics, including minimum setbacks from the front and sides of a property, maximum width of a veranda, and privacy issues around placement of windows. The last day to complete the survey is Monday, June 27.

With that process underway, we thought it is a good time to ask the question: Is it possible to zone for happiness?

The answer? Absolutely.

Full Story (Edmonton Journal)
 

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Despite the controversy they sometimes illicit from neighbours, infill homes remain popular with buyers, which is one of the reason prices haven’t come down as the city opened up more areas of the city, says one builder.

Matthew Kaprowy, president of Accent Infills, said many more companies are building infill homes because even in a downturn they are a reliable investment.

“Really the only market that continues to be promising and strong is the infill market and so more and more people are getting their feet into it,” he said.

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City officials are launching the next stage of their infill review, finalizing changes to rules that govern the shape and position of new buildings in mature neighbourhoods.

Their goal is to increase clarity for both residents and builders, to reduce the number of exceptions needed and make the process smoother for all involved.

Staff will consider building height, driveway access, finishing materials and the distance left between houses, among other issues, said planner Colton Kirsop, speaking Wednesday to the urban planning committee on the mature neighbourhood overlay review. They’re also looking to make it easier to build front verandas.

Full Story (Edmonton Journal)
 

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Infill police: Enforcing building standards, reducing stress on the neighbours
Three times a week, peace officer Darren Anderson jumps in his truck with a development officer and safety codes inspector to visit infill sites.

For the first time in years, Edmonton now has a team of infill police seeking to make sure builders keep their sites clean, fenced and boulevard trees protected.

Since in July, they’ve visited more than 300 properties — half because the neighbours complained and half simply pulled from city records. They’ve issued 100 fines and 386 warnings.

In addition, they identified 61 infill properties where builders were not following the permits or didn’t have permits on file with the city. They’ll be forced to change the homes midway or stop and reapply for a new development permit.

“A big part of our team right now is educating the builders, property owner and subtrades,” said Livia Balone, director of development and zoning for the city. “We’re hoping to get to all of them at least once and maybe some (sites) twice if we’re able to get out there during demolition. The main goal is to do as many proactive inspections as we possibly can.”

Full Story (Edmonton Journal)
 

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