| Posted: Saturday, Jul 21, 2012 06:00 am
Sturgeon County’s development appeal board called game on Wednesday, denying an appeal and allowing former Oiler Fernando Pisani to build a backyard rink at his home.
Earlier this month, neighbours in the Riverstone Pointe development asked the development appeal board to stop construction on a backyard rink at Pisani’s home.
At approximately 15 metres wide and 27 metres long, it will be bigger than the average backyard rink. Plans also call for four-foot-high boards, Plexiglas at the ends and six ten-foot-tall light poles.
Neighbours said they were concerned about the impact the rink would have on the natural landscape and the amount of noise and light it would produce.
At the hearing earlier this month, Pisani said he was surprised at the uproar, noting he had followed all of the county’s rules and had not tried to simply build the rink without going through due process.
"We were informed that a permit was not even required, and that it was equivalent to a tennis court," he said.
Pisani said he tried to ease his neighbours’ concerns, but they were inflexible.
"They simply wanted the project stopped."
In their ruling, the board upheld the decision of Sturgeon County’s planning department, telling Pisani his backyard rink would not require a development permit.
“The board is of the view that the outdoor skating rink falls within the spectrum of personal recreational uses and equipment associated with use of a single detached dwelling and is therefore not a separate development. As such, it does not require a development permit.”
The board’s decision sets out the dimensions and features of the rink and while agreeing it can proceed, the decision says any deviation from those plans could be subject to an appeal.
“If the use or construction of the outdoor skating rink is not in accordance with the above, then the board’s decision could be affected. The board’s decision only applies on the basis that the outdoor skating rink is installed and used exactly as set out above.”
Sturgeon County councillor Don McGeachy, one of council’s representatives on the appeal board, said they gave the issue a lot of thought.
“We debated this quite strenuously, there was lots of back and forth,” he said. “We did not take the appellants’ arguments lightly and we were not dismissive in any way, shape or form of their perceptions.”
He said ultimately he believes it will be good for kids in the neighbourhood.
“There is a real call for less sedentary lifestyles amongst our kids and I think this a great opportunity to get more kids off the couch.”
He said council plans to look at the issue in the future and he hopes it can clarify the issues and avoid problems in the future.
“We have come forward with a direction to include in our amendment of the land-use bylaw a clause that deals specifically with sports courts.”
Coun. Tom Flynn, who represents the area, said the appeal board made a tough decision on the issue and he respects it. He put forward the motion asking administration to look at the issue more broadly.
He said as the county becomes more urban and less rural, issues like this will have to be addressed.
“I hate to be the one to be bringing more rules on people, but it seems like it might be more and more necessary.”
Flynn said despite the concerns he is optimistic there won’t be an issue around the rink. He said in most cases it is about how something is used.
“It isn’t altogether about a hockey rink or a swimming pool or something like that, it is more about how people might treat it and manage it,” he said. “I think it is more about people than it is about the exact facility that is there.”