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Councillors argue for smaller lots at Niven Lake

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services
Wednesday, March 21, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - A showdown is brewing on city council over development plans for Phase VII of the Niven Lake subdivision.

Some city councillors say the proposed lot sizes are too big and parking should be restricted to one lane along Phase VII streets, while others argued that such measures will turn off developers and drive up building costs.

"We don't have to supply any more houses for the presidents of companies," said Coun. Kevin Kennedy during a committee meeting, Monday, held to review city responses to questions raised during a public hearing into Phase VII, Feb. 12.

"I don't think anyone making $500,000 a year will have any trouble finding a home here."

Kennedy launched Monday's debate by suggesting larger lots within Phase VII should be reserved for multi-unit dwellings, and not "monster homes."

He added that the subdivision would be better served if the average sizes of lots were reduced overall.

The proposed zoning designation for Phase VII is R7, which would allow a mixture of detached dwellings, duplexes and semi-detached homes.

City administration recommends that council should avoid allowing a "large supply" of medium density housing in Phase VII for fear that it would shift demand for it away from downtown, where the city wants to encourage developers to build higher density homes.

But Kennedy, who called the development of Phase VII "one of the most important decisions we'll have to make here on council," argued that smaller lots in Phase VII would encourage builders to construct more energy-efficient and affordable homes.

Coun. Paul Falvo and Coun. Shelagh Montgomery agreed.

They also argued that the city should restrict parking in Phase VII to one lane only to allow for narrower roads to be built, which would free up more space for development while still allowing for ample green space.

Falvo said it would also encourage more residents to take the bus.

"We do admittedly want to make it a little less easy to have a car but on the positive side, we want to make it cheaper for people living there," said Falvo following the meeting.

"If it's set up so people are more inclined to take the bus, the transit is more inclined to be there, then after a while it's cheaper to live there in the long run."

Montgomery inquired whether the city intended to enforce fines should developers damage areas set aside as natural green and rock space in Phase VII.

Jeffrey Humble, the city's director of planning and lands admitted that the city has not been "very successful at fines."

Coun. Bob Brooks, arguing against the "so many misconceptions spouted," said some councillors were trying to push the city into building a "Nirvana" neighbourhood wrapped in red tape.

"If we put so many restrictions on lots, it's going to increase costs," said Brooks.

Brooks, Coun. David Wind and Coun. Lydia Bardak argued that developers will lose interest if faced with more fines and greater restrictions on what they can build.

Three bylaws to allow Phase VII to proceed will go to a vote next Monday for second reading.

Construction is expected to begin this fall.