Emotional pleas fail to halt rezoning bylaw

Edmonton Journal, June 10, 2014

EDMONTON — One resident was clearly upset Monday at a public hearing where city council passed a bylaw approving rezoning for development in the McConachie area, despite the objections of residents.

“I’m devastated, this was our place where we wanted to raise our children. This was it, this was our home,” said Marianne Butler, her voice breaking as she addressed councillors.

Concerns revolved around issues including the density of the neighbourhood, a potential increase in crime, privacy and traffic issues. However, the central issue is the destruction of a grove of tall trees to make way for a condo development just east of 66th Street and north of 167th Avenue.

“I’m not even going to be able to have my blinds open during the day,” Butler said, as two of her children sat in the council chamber. Her kids, she said, had cried when they came home one day to find the trees cut down.

“I would feel like a prisoner in my own home, I appeal to you, do you have children? Do you have grandchildren? Do you play with them in their backyard? How would you feel if there were three buildings there looking down upon you?” Coun. Scott McKeen expressed his sympathy for the homeowners and their privacy concerns.

“I heard some pretty compelling arguments from the folks who showed up today and that really tweaked my sense of justice,” McKeen said. “I think the developer made a huge mistake here in mowing down that tree stand … I think a lot of them wouldn’t be here today if that stand of trees was still there, the privacy issues wouldn’t be nearly what they are.”

Coun. Andrew Knack, however, contested some of the privacy claims, noting that most condo owners are not sitting around looking into their neighbours’ backyards.

“Is that a concern that’s maybe a little overblown?” Knack asked.

As well, city administration suggested that trees will likely be planted once the project reaches the planning phase.

Another concern, one that was taken up mere weeks ago by councillors over issues in the Secord neighbourhood, was whether or not residents had been informed about possible future development. “At some point somebody told you something that was not true about what was supposed to happen on the other side of the fence, pertaining both to the trees and to the potential form of development,” Mayor Don Iveson said.

Resident Cara Campbell was one of those who felt misled over what the future had in store.

“We took the word of builders … I guess that’s the whole buyer beware, but it’s really hard to think that we’re going to have to suffer,” Campbell said.

Nevertheless, councillors passed the bylaw, and Coun. Ben Henderson pointed out that fault rests not with the current owner of the land or future developers, but with those who had sold the homes.

“The trouble is that in many ways the people who most deserve to be punished are not here and they were the developer who has misrepresented, quite frankly, what was going to happen across the street,” Henderson said.

Patricia Hope, who helped organize opposition to the development, said she hopes they will have the opportunity to give input once the actual planning phase begins. “I’m very disappointed on the decision that city council has made, but I can understand their reasoning for it,” Hope said.



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