Residents in Old Tuxedo who opposed the subdivision of a corner lot in the tony neighbourhood have won their fight at a city appeals committee.
"The people have spoken," said Coun. Jason Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan) Thursday. With support from Coun. Markus Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River), the neighbours’ appeal passed 2-1.
The Sapozhnik family at 202 Handsart Blvd. had asked the city for permission to split their 153-foot-wide lot in two, keeping the existing single-family home on one 77-foot-wide lot and building a second single-family home on the second, 75-foot-wide lot. In April, the city's board of adjustment approved the plan after a report from the planning department said the resulting lots would be similar in size to most lots on Handsart.
At least 14 neighbours returned to city hall to oppose the project Thursday afternoon. A public hearing last week was unexpectedly adjourned after a 45-minute in-camera presentation from the city’s legal department.
"We are not an unreasonable group of people," Handsart resident Ken Zaifman, a lawyer, told the committee. "I can assure you Mr. (David) Asper did not lead this group ... this was a community consensus, done the old-fashioned way, going door to door."
David Asper confirmed Thursday that he had tried to buy the property at 202 Handsart. He denied allegations from the homeowners’ lawyer that the failed deal had motivated him to oppose the subdivision.
"We are not an unreasonable group of people... this was a community consensus, done the old-fashioned way, going door to door." – Handsart resident Ken Zaifman
"An offer was drawn up, it was never signed," Asper said, because he deemed a counter-offer for the entire property too high. He said he’d no longer consider buying it after building a home down the street.
Both Asper and Zaifman said their concerns with 202 Handsart began with the removal of a tree on the property, stating they made multiple FIPPA requests to get to the bottom of it.
More than half of the 26 lots on Handsart between Nanton and Corydon avenues are 75 to 77 feet wide, including the property where Asper lives. The average lot width in the area is 107 feet, city planners say.
Coun. Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre) cast the lone vote against the appeal. She says in her ward, lot splits happen all the time.
"I believe that we need more density in the community. I think that’s fair and reasonable," she said.
Asked what he’d say to people who live in more dense neighbourhoods who have their appeals denied, Asper told people to hold out hope.
"What I would say to people in other parts of the city is to keep up the fight," Asper said. "There’s going to be an election one day and maybe you need to elect different people."
St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes said as soon as the decision was released, he started hearing from angry residents in his ward. Glenwood residents have failed to stop subdivisions on 50-foot-wide lots.
"The process that we have on infill, I think we've now lost all credibility with the public," Mayes said.
"We've got infill for the working class and we've got heritage for the wealthy areas. There's something wrong with that."
He said he's fed up. Next month, he plans to propose changes, including a temporary ban on infill in Glenwood until a new policy is in place.
"We don't have the infill guidelines, we desperately need them," he said.