Stuart Young sat with one hand on his iced tea and one hand on a stack of papers spread across the table. He held a pen between his fingers, flicking it back and forth thoughtfully, tapping it against his knuckles.
“I don’t usually have time for things like this,” he said, patting the manila folder. “Now I have a whole file on this stuff.”
Young is a business consultant with a background in environmental science and is a resident of Mary Lake subdivision. He has major concerns surrounding the city-proposed infill lots in his neighbourhood, he said.
Young produced a map from the file and pointed at a space shaded in blue along Fireweed Drive representing one of the proposed infill sites.
“This is a deadly one,” he said. The road there is very narrow, in the winter time especially, with a sharp curve and hill he said, which would make building there very dangerous. “They’d have to put in a side access road there to make it safe and I don’t think they’re going to do that.”
Acting manager of planning and sustainability Mike Ellis has said that these infill sites are designed to need no additional roadways built in the subdivisions they have been selected for.
Loss of greenspace is also a major concern for Young — a concern which has been expressed by other people publicly multiple times, both in the media and in various council meetings. Young says there is a wildlife corridor in the area, and that there are trails — which city council and staff have said are not protected from development because they are not recognized as part of the official trails plan — which are used by snowmobilers, mushers and berry pickers from both within and outside of the Mary Lake community.
“Our concern is, you’re going to take away the wilderness, you’re going to have conflict (with wildlife),” he said. “When you have to put an animal down or someone dies because they spooked a bear and her cubs, who’s responsible? You’ve changed (the animals’) habitat.
“They’re not respecting their own OCP.”
Presently, the city’s 2010 Official Community Plan states that “green space retention, important recreation areas, wildlife habitat, and movement corridors within the City are important to the vision developed by residents and thus need to be protected.”
Lois Johnston, head of the Mary Lake Community Association, said that, while she “doesn’t speak for everyone,” that she had heard many of Young’s complaints echoed by other residents.
“Those trails are very important and people use them every day — we have poor lighting on Fireweed Trail and people use the (unofficial trails) to walk with their kids. It’s dangerous to walk on the road,” she said.
“People bought with the understanding no one would ever build (on these greenspaces) — and they paid top dollar,” Young said.
Safety and greenspace issues aside, Young said — as many before him have also said — that he has concerns about water quality and pressure should these new lots go in.
The city eliminated three of the initial 13 sites it was considering based on a result of consultations and physical assessments of the sites. Young said the report the city used to determine the feasability of the remaining 10 proposed sites was “just a tabletop study,” and the type of testing they used to determine the potential water pressure does not produce “real” applicable results.
Young said that, when another house went in behind his, the pressure in his own well dropped by 35 per cent.
“If you stick 10 more houses down the road,” he said, “then what?”
Greg Bull, an engineer and resident of Mary Lake, said he reviewed the report and found that it was sound, but he finds the way the city has interpreted and applied someone of the results troubling. If developed, he said, some of the proposed infill lots might not be able to have on-site water, due to the structure of the water table and the risk of drilling “dry” wells.
“There’s nothing wrong with the technical report,” he said. “The issue I have with it is that … there is a high risk of not being able to drill successful wells on the property…. People may have to drill more than one well to hit water, or (possibly) not hit water at all.
“I personally wouldn’t want to take that chance.”
Bull said it can cost between $17,000 and $22,000 to drill one well.
“If you have to drill two, that’s costly.”
“Drilling of wells in the granite of the igneous bedrock aquifer will likely be ‘hit or miss,’ and there is the potential to install dry wells as well as successful wells,” the report report reads. “The cost of well drilling may constrain residents’ ability to drill additional wells should initial wells not provide adequate yield. Even if multiple wells are drilled on a lot, it may not guarantee that required yields are met.
“Wells completed in granite have the potential for water quality concerns such as hard water, concentrations of iron and manganese above the … aesthetic objective (AO) and uranium concentrations … may require treatment.”
“My big issue,” said Bull, “is that it goes against what they said they wanted in the OCP.”
The OCP mandates that country residential areas, “ shall be maintained, where possible, on the basis of on-site sewage disposal and potable water sources.”
More than anything, Young said he objects to what he calls a lack of consultation. Public consultations have been held by the city at various stages in the selection process, including an online survey.
“I’m not against the development — I’m against the process,” Young said. “We’ve asked a lot of questions and haven’t got bugger all for answers.”
Letters regarding the development were sent out in May, informing residents in affected areas that their neighbourhoods were being considered for development. These letters read, in part, that while Whistle Bend has been “the major focus of development for the City” over the past few years, the city was considering the infill development because there are “very few lots currently available.”
New lots in Whistle Bend are expected to become available in spring 2018.
“I get it,” Young said. “I get that you don’t have room for everybody…. But don’t make us pay because you screwed up Whistle Bend.”
Contact Lori Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org