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Fighting for his land

Charleswood man fears development will devalue his property

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Charleswood landowner Len Van Roon Sr. is worried a road proposed by developers will leave his land inaccessible and reduce its value.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Charleswood landowner Len Van Roon Sr. is worried a road proposed by developers will leave his land inaccessible and reduce its value. Photo Store

A 92-year-old Charleswood man's efforts to save a centuries-old oak forest from a developer's axe has put his children's inheritance at risk.

Len Van Roon Sr.'s home sits on a 3.2-hectare parcel of land next to a major new development in south Charleswood, known as Ridgewood South/Area 1.

Van Roon had campaigned against Qualico's plans to put a road along the property line that separates their two properties, which would have resulted in chopping down 485 mature oak trees.

City officials agreed with Qualico's plans but told the developer they'd have to pay a financial penalty for every tree they chopped down -- if all the trees went down, it would cost Qualico $426,000.

To avoid the financial penalty, Qualico moved the road north. That saved most of the trees but Van Roon now believes his ability to develop his own land has been negatively affected.

"I don't want to leave my family a piece of property" that can't be developed, Van Roon said.

"We can't do anything with my property."

Donovan Toews, a planner with Landmark Planning & Design, said the compromise subdivision plan that's going to council Wednesday for approval has received the support of all neighbourhood groups -- with the exception of the Van Roon family.

Toews said the precinct plan for the Ridgewood South development requires property owners to co-operate with each other in designing an overall plan, adding that leaves the Van Roons with several development options.

"We've worked with Len a lot, we've been very patient with him," Toews said. "They are convinced they're getting the short end of the stick here."

Toews said several roads from the Qualico plan will connect with possible roadways in any development designed by Van Roon and his neighbours.

But Van Roon said without a road access to the north into the Qualico property, his only option is to remove many more oak trees and tall prairie grass to the south, and he'll be forced to knock down his own home and that of a neighbour's to get road access.

Van Roon's father bought the land in 1920 and the family moved there in 1928. He said he's just as familiar with every tree and blade of grass as he is with the members of his family.

Van Roon's son, Len Jr., said city officials told him they can't propose any changes to Qualico's plan at Wednesday's council meeting but they are hoping pressure will be brought on the company to add a short north-south roadway into their property.

"It's only 55 feet, the size of a lot," Van Roon said.

"It would require removing 30 trees but save hundreds more and the grass if we have to look south. That's a small price to pay."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 22, 2014 B1

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