Oakmont rezoning a case of buyer beware
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 06:00 am
The city and developers banking land for future development might need to consider putting large signs on privately owned yet still undeveloped land in St. Albert to save themselves headaches when they do decide to start building.
Courtesy of a group of Oakmont residents this Monday, councillors were faced with criticisms at a rezoning hearing for a parcel of land on Orchard Court that is privately owned. The developers want to start building the land they own, that they outlined for residential construction in the Oakmont area structure plan, but, as has happened in St. Albert before, residents in the surrounding area became enamoured of what they believed was green space. So the rezoning application was met with resistance.
In their written submissions, homeowners cited many arguments against allowing the developer to proceed with the plans that have been in place for years — such as increased traffic from construction of the planned 10 homes, noise and other annoyances from actual construction and, naturally, the notion their property values would suffer as a result.
St. Albert has seen this particular process play out many times before. The most visible example was the debate over development of Aurora Place — the Habitat for Humanity build on Arlington Drive. The land was owned by the then Protestant School Board as a potential school site but was used as a park by surrounding residents. Despite the fact it was up to the school board to dispose of as it saw fit, homeowners rallied against more than one proposed project before they were forced to accept the Habitat build.
In contrast, Orchard Court residents have considerably little about which to complain. Aurora Place, when completed, will feature 30 units. Oakmont will see 10. The rezoning hearing was to designate the land low-density residential, as laid out in the area structure plan. Granted the plan called for seven units originally.
But given the density targets municipalities of the Capital Region Board must now meet, Orchard Court residents should consider themselves lucky. Future developments now require a minimum 30 residential dwelling units per net residential hectare and minimum of 30 per cent of housing as medium or high density. The Orchard Court site works out to slightly more than half a hectare, so the math shows still more than one-third fewer homes than required for newer developments.
It is difficult to understand why surrounding homeowners are choosing now to complain, especially since the Oakmont area structure plan has been in place since 1997. It is a public document, so either homeowners didn’t do their research when they bought their homes or they got some bad information. In the end it probably doesn’t matter. Apparently it doesn’t matter whether a proposed development is a badly needed affordable housing project or low density residential on larger lots – NIMBY will always rule. Even when a private landowner does almost exactly what was originally planned, even with a small change, it can be described as somehow being inconsiderate to others.
So maybe it’s time for the city to negotiate with landowners plans for large signs and tall fences around undeveloped land so that no one can use it for anything other than its intended purpose. This is simply a case of buyer beware, and it doesn’t even involve fine print. If homeowners won’t do their research before buying a home, the city must simply wall off similar parcels so that no one can form a mistaken impression.