Chet Greason email@example.com
Two sides of a squabble between residents of a subdivision and its developer have agreed to meet to try to work out a solution that both parties can be happy with.
The Avon West subdivision, located off O’Loane Avenue and developed by Werner Bromberg Ltd., had originally planned for 20 single family homes along what will one day be known as Brown Street.
However, planning consultant and representative, Ian Rawlings, said at council’s meeting Monday that the single family homes have not been selling.
“After four years of marketing, we’ve had only 20 single family homes sold,” he explained. “Meanwhile, the 24 semi-detached homes are all gone.”
For this reason, the developer hopes to re-zone the 20 currently vacant lots into 15 semi-detached dwellings, for a total of 30 units. He said there was high motivation for the re-zone “so my clients can sell more houses.”
However, the move has upset a number of Avon West residents who have already built homes in the new subdivision. Residents Christine Foster and Umas Campantero made delegations to council asking the city to reconsider the staff recommendation to pass the re-zone.
“When we purchased from Bromberg, we signed a contract that was about the size of the Old Testament,” said Foster, who claimed the contract she signed went to great lengths to ensure the neighbour maintained a certain standard, going so far as to restrict the breeds of dogs residents can keep or the hanging of clotheslines.
The clothesline issue raised alarm bells with Coun. Bonnie Henderson.
“That’s against the law,” she said of the restriction, citing recent provincial legislation that lifted bans on clotheslines.
She called the stipulation “curious” and suggested Foster have a lawyer review the contract to see what other legalities may be within.
But the clothesline issue was beside the point for Foster. Her issue was that if residents were being kept to such stringent neighbourhood standards, why is the developer able to change the neighbourhood standards on a whim?
“We’re not even allowed to change the brick after we’ve lived in the house for two years,” she observed. “But when we signed, we agreed that this was the site plan,” at which point Foster held up a copy of the original map.
She stated the developer should be made to honour the original site plan that was sold to homeowners.
Campantero also had the interests of the homeowners in mind.
“(The developer) says the proposed plan is in answer to a changing market,” he said. “Well, how about the owners? What benefits will we see?”
The group of concerned residents cited increased traffic and lowered property values as chief amongst its concerns should the re-zone happen.
In answer, Rawlings explained that building semi-detached homes was in the residents’ best interests, citing the developer’s inability to sell single family homes.
“If we do nothing ... it’s very likely your home’s value will go down, living in a sea of mud for years to come,” he said, referring to a photo of the empty parcel of land included in the city planner’s report which showed nothing but storage containers, canisters of compressed gas, and a lonely portable.
“It’s a construction zone,” he said. “It’s been that way for four years. If we can build more homes and see some sales, that’s the best you can hope for in a new subdivision. It adds value to everybody.”
Coun. Martin Ritsma asked whether residents could expect even more re-zoning in the future. Rawlings answered that he could not answer absolutely.
“Zoning is not forever,” he said.
Coun. George Brown asked whether it was possible for the developer to skip to its fourth phase, which includes building more semi-detached homes, or relocate the re-zoning to an area further away from existing homes. Rawlings answered to do so would require servicing large swaths of empty lots in order to connect pre-existing services in a loop.
Coun. Keith Culliton, who claimed he was well acquainted with Rawlings, called for compromise.
“Has there been any attempt to sit down with these people?” he asked. Rawlings said there hadn’t been, but he was willing to try. The residents, too, seemed open to the idea. Foster said it was “a good idea.”
A referral motion by Culliton was passed to defer the decision until after the developer and residents could meet. Manager of development services, Jeff Leunissen, said city staff would also like to attend the meeting.