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West Edmonton residents worry about loss of privacy after new berm built behind their backyards

Click to play video: 'High path problems in Edmonton’s Secord neighbourhood' High path problems in Edmonton’s Secord neighbourhood
Some residents in a west Edmonton neighbourhood are angry, and questioning why the city gave the green light to a development that essentially walls off the backyards of their properties. Vinesh Pratap has more. – Sep 7, 2020

One step into Don Czernick’s backyard and the view immediately hits you.

“Nobody in their right mind would want to buy a house with that there — nobody,” explained Czernick, a long time resident of the west Edmonton community of Secord.

Czernick and his neighbours have watched a berm grow higher and higher behind their fences to the point that its several feet higher than the fence line in some spots.

A berm that is higher than backyard fences in the west Edmonton community in Secord also has a public path built on it. Global News

Adding to the anxiety, on top of the berm is a new public pathway, where passersby now have a clear look into the backyards and homes along the route.

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“At no point were we advised that they were going to build a berm,” said Michelle Prosser, another long-time resident.

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The frustration is over a new development taking shape just south of 94A Avenue in the Secord community.

Initially, the land behind the homes was planned for an apartment-style building.

Instead things were reconfigured — moving a stormwater pond closer to the south end of Secord, with the resulting berm and pathway.

“I feel exposed and I feel violated,” an emotional Prosser told Global News.

In a statement, the city indicates the plan follows current design standards.

“The walkway is higher than the high water level of the future SWMF (stormwater management facility) so that it can be used immediately after significant rainfall events.”

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Residents have been seeking answers from the area’s councillor.

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“We’re having some folks go out and do some verification, is the height of that pathway right up against those properties built as originally approved?,” Ward 1 Councillor Andrew Knack said.

“Was there any point in that process where someone had the opportunity to look at it and say, ‘Yes, this is technically right, but is there going to be an impact we normally wouldn’t have experienced?'”

The developer of the greenfield site, Melcor, indicates the company worked “diligently with the City to come up with a solution to match the grade of our new development with existing Secord…”

Melcor adds in its statement, “Other than that our hands were tied as we were required to build a trail connection from the existing Secord to the new school site and pond.”

“We believe that, together with the city, we came up with the best possible solution for everyone based on development guidelines and the unchangeable parameters of existing development around us.”

When it comes to drainage, residents have dealt with backyard flooding during recent storms.

Flooding in the backyard of Don Czernick’s home in the west Edmonton community of Secord.
Flooding in the backyard of Don Czernick’s home in the west Edmonton community of Secord. Courtesy / Don Czernick

A large concrete swale, next to the berm, is going in — designed to channel water away.

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It will sit parallel next to a smaller swale on the Secord properties but many question how effective it will be, considering the steep slope off the path.

“This area is going to fill up with snow and it’s going to sit there all being backed up,” Prosser said.

Residents feel helpless. One possible next step: getting the lawyers involved.

“It’s sad that it has to come to it, but if that’s what it is, that’s what it is,” Czernick said.

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