By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – A number of residents came out to a public hearing Tuesday night to express their displeasure at plans to level an historic home off Morinville’s downtown core to make way for a four-unit dwelling. That displeasure was recognized later in the evening when council voted unanimously against second reading of a rezoning bylaw that would allow it.
Morinville Town Council held the public hearing on a request to rezone 10008 99 Avenue from R1 (single detached) to R5 (medium density) after giving first reading of the redistricting request at their June 28 meeting.
The existing property is 62 feet by 144 feet and consists of a single detached home and garage. The property owner, Ron Fylyshtan, requested the redistricting to be able to put a four-plex on the property.The home, constructed in 1908, is part of Morinville’s historical walking tour; however, there is little historical significance left to the property. Major renovations undertaken in 1951 have left little historical architecture other than some double hung sash windows and canopies.
But for the 15 neighbours who came out in opposition to the proposal, it was not just the destruction of history but the potential destruction of what is a quiet neighbourhood that is at issue.
In a letter to the Town of Morinville, dated June 12, residents Teri and Troy Deatrich expressed their view the neighbourhood had the potential of becoming like historic areas of Edmonton where single family homes were preserved to maintain the historical integrity. “We have concerns that multiunit complexes would take away from the quiet and historical feel of the neighbourhood and instead give the neighbourhood an “inner-city” feel,” the couple wrote. The Deathrichs went on in the letter to argue their belief the proposed project would have insufficient parking to meet an existing Town of Morinville bylaw.
Mrs. Deatrich maintained that point of view when speaking to council during the July 12 public hearing. “I don’t want to see my quite little street turn into one where we have car after car after car going through,” Mrs. Deatrich said, adding she was concerned street parking on the one way street would impeded delivery trucks accessing the loading area of Home Hardware.
It was a position shared by Home Hardware owner Maurice Chevalier who wrote a letter of opposition expressing his concern parking would make delivery truck access nearly impossible on 100A Avenue. Additionally, Chevalier expressed concerns on long term growth and having additional residents so close to commercial operations.
Other opponents spoke to whether one could get two lots out of the 62-foot wide property and the limited availability of parking, particularly given the proximity to Home Hardware and other businesses, and whether there would be a 25-foot easement on the 62-foot property. Additionally one speaker expressed concern on where children from the development would play. There was an overall concern allowing the redistricting would pave the way to allow other multi-unit dwellings in the neighbourhood, further eroding the historical flavour of the district.
One, opponent, Bruce Jackson, moved to Morinville five years ago and was attracted by the town’s historical nature and good quality houses. “I think it is a shame to get rid of the heritage,” Jackson said. “You people spend more time and money on your festivals than most cities. You are proud of your heritage. I’d hate to see you lose your heritage. You see it in the cities every day.”
The proponent of the development, Ron Fylyshtan, was given an opportunity to respond to those opposed to his development. He said he believed the development would bring additional residents into the downtown core, people likely to spend money at local businesses. Additionally, Fylyshtan defended the parking criticisms, stating each of the four units would have two parking stalls as is required under Morinville’s Land Use Bylaw and that company would park on the street as they do anywhere else in town.
Second reading defeated
After the conclusion of the public hearing, Council immediately moved on to discussing second reading of the bylaw to allow the rezoning.
Councillor David Pattison compared the proposal to some historical areas of Edmonton where lots can cost up to $1 million but have houses with no value, a situation that leads to historic homes being knocked down to make room for new development. The councillor did not believe that to be the case in the area south of 100 Avenue. “I think the houses are still worth something in the area,” Pattison said. “Tell me otherwise. I just haven’t seen that presented here.”
Deputy Mayor Gordon Boddez said a sign the area is not ready for the change proposed by the bylaw was evidenced by the extent to which residents expressed their opposition. Boddez said Morinville should be looking at the entire downtown area, not just a piecemeal approach when development requests come up. “I think we’re premature in making this decision based on the feedback,” he said. “I think we need a broader look at the area.”
The motion for second reading was unanimously opposed defeating the request to rezone the area.