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Edmonton moves forward on controversial mature neighbourhoods bylaw

EDMONTON – Following a lengthy public hearing, city council voted Tuesday to change zoning bylaws to allow subdividing 50 foot lots and building new homes closer to front streets.

“It’s a small step to look at finding ways to control urban sprawl,” said Mayor Stephen Mandel. “It’s a very small step. I think much more needs to be done. I understand the frustration that people have because it’s complicated, there’s always people having concerns, but this is a small step that is really almost mandated as a result of our municipal development plan.”

City council has been debating this particular issue for four years. It’s been looking at ways to encourage infill development in the city in order to keep older neighbourhoods – and the amenities in those areas – viable.

The bylaw, which has drawn strong concern from community leagues and other groups since it was released last fall, would permit subdividing 15-metre (50-foot) lots so two houses could be built on the site.

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It would also increase opportunities for putting up duplex and semi-detached homes in single-family zones, and lay out rules for when homebuilders can add suburban-style front garages.

“I think it’s a positive step forward. I know it’s a very complicated issue. There are a lot of different sides to it,” said Tegan Martin-Drysdale, partner of Red Brick Real Estate Services and Development.

“It does give some options for flexibility and some new housing choices,” she added.

Council met with city administration Tuesday afternoon after hearing from community members Monday night.

“The communities are looking at tightening the language,” said Byron Kwasnitza, treasurer of the Jasper Park Community League, one of about 20 people scheduled to speak at a public hearing.

“What the communities want more than anything else is clarity … so it’s not open for interpretation; it’s not open for variance.”

They’re concerned the character of older areas could change, making them less attractive to families and leaving too much power in the hands of city staff and the subdivision and development appeal board, Kwasnitza said.

The bylaw changes will only impact certain zoned lots; effecting about 20 per cent of lots in mature neighbourhoods.

Community leagues have voiced concerns about the power the development officer might have, and the rules on front access and front garages.

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The rules were later modified to make it clear front access is not allowed where there is an alley and fewer than half the other homes on the block have front access.

Council approved the changes after taking into consideration some of the concerns from community groups.

Council will debate the remaining issues surrounding this bylaw in April.
 With files from the Edmonton Journal

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