A contentious development application is moving forward in the RM of West St. Paul.
Last fall Terracon Development submitted a proposal to municipal council to build 36 single-family lots along River Springs Drive.
River Springs Drive is about one-kilometre long and is similar in shape to a cul-de-sac. Forty-two houses line the north side of the street, and to the south is the land Terracon is hoping to develop. It is now covered in oak trees estimated by an arborist to be at least 200 years old.
Terracon stumbled into a rocky patch when its rezoning application caught the attention of local residents.
At the helm of the River Springs Residents Committee is Henry Bakker. In November 2019, his group cited traffic congestion, safety, tree and animal habitat loss, and impact on neighbourhood character as concerns associated with the application.
The group claimed the developer’s proposal did not align with the Middlechurch Secondary Plan, a document that governs development in the area. Residents were also concerned the proposed lots resembled infill housing, were too narrow and had limited parking space, which they believed would result in parked vehicles along the narrow street.
Homeowners signed a petition opposing the development. A public hearing was held over two nights, and there was enough objection from residents that the application was sent to the Red River Planning District Board for an appeal hearing on Feb. 19. The board rejected the appeal.
The application was returned to WSP council where it received third reading and final rezoning approval on March 23.
WSP mayor Cheryl Christian said the process has included unprecedented public engagement, with two open houses, changes made to the proposal based on community feedback, and door-to-door visits from the developer.
"I know it’s controversial and residents have concerns, but the developer did everything that they could to address those concerns and work with residents to find some common ground and compromise," Christian said.
According to the mayor, the developer increased the lot sizes twice to accommodate residents, with the latest application proposing that more than half the lots measure 144 feet long by 60 feet wide.
Terracon has also offered to save as many trees as possible and replant 33 per cent more than required in the respective bylaw, she said.
"I think the final product is going to be a beautiful development, welcoming new people to our community, saving as many trees as we can which was a big concern for residents, and having a safe neighbourhood. All of their concerns have been taken into consideration," Christian said.
But Bakker, whose residents committee retained legal counsel and a professional planner for their fight against the application, disagrees.
Bakker, who has lived on River Springs Drive for seven years, said the proposed lot sizes are still too small.
"Yes, they’ve made changes, but they have not met our expectations," he said.
"The closest thing we got from (council) was that in the development agreement they will attempt to satisfy our concerns but cautioned us that many of them were not possible … We have little confidence that they’re actually going to respect what our expectations are and what is actually permitted in the governing regulations."
The residents committee has submitted a letter to minister of municipal relations Rochelle Squires, and to local MLA Shannon Martin outlining its concerns.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Christian said, a timeline for the remainder of the development process has not been determined, but expects Terracon will begin the development agreement process soon.
Terracon Development did not respond to a request for comment before press time.
Community Journalist - The Times
Sydney Hildebrandt is the community journalist for The Times. Email her at email@example.com
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