Marg Scheben-Edey no longer sees sunsets when sitting outside in her backyard.
Scheben-Edey, a local realtor, came before the development and operations services standing committee on Jan. 21 to talk about the dangers of infill development, specifically how it pertains to an ongoing issue in her own neighbourhood.
“I have a passion for good planning in our community,” says Scheben-Edey. “But over the past year my husband and I have become very aware of the weaknesses of the implementation of our current zoning bylaw in respect to infill development.”
In urban planning, infill has been defined as the use of land within a built-up area for further construction, especially as part of a community redevelopment or growth management program or as part of smart growth. It can refer to building more standalone dwellings on previously-developed land, or building apartments within or adjacent to existing dwellings. The Town of Collingwood bylaws concerning infill development have specific rules regarding the minimum front, rear, and side yard distances, maximum lot coverage and a minimum landscaped open space requirements.
Scheben-Edey’s home on Smart Court in Collingwood backs on to the backyard of a home around the corner on Campbell Street.
“Last spring we got a call from the owners of (the Campbell Street) property to kindly inform us that they were going to be building an accessory apartment addition,” said Scheben-Edey. “We support intensification, and given that the bylaw states that an accessory apartment cannot exceed 40 per cent of the size... we naively assumed that it would be about 800 square feet, as the existing home is about 1,900 square feet.”
After going away for a vacation this past summer, Scheben-Edey and her husband say they returned to find framing for a towering two-story home mere feet from her property line.
“An addition of over 3,600 square feet was added onto the original smart farm homestead,” says Scheben-Edey. “The owners have, effectively built a brand new house and no development charges were payable, there was no lot grading, no drainage studies required or site plan required.”
According to Nancy Farrer, director of planning, no further planning review is required in cases of infill development when a project is in full compliance with the bylaws.
When asked what neighbours of infill projects can do if they see neighbours contravening the bylaws, Farrer indicated the planning department with the town can’t answer that question.
“That is a question for a lawyer,” she said.
After Scheben-Edey finished her deputation at the committee meeting this week, Coun. Yvonne Hamlin asked Farrer when council might see a report concerning the infill issue.
“It would probably be the summer,” said Farrer.
Meanwhile, when Scheben-Edey and her husband look out into their backyard, where there was once greenery and natural features, now there is an eight-foot fence and a two-story home looming over their house.
“We no longer see the sunsets. We used to see the fireworks at the mountain. We no longer see those. Last year we lost our entire backyard; it went mouldy. We’ve completely lost our privacy,” she said.
Moving forward, Scheben-Edey wants to draw attention to the issue to hopefully see change, including adding a requirement of a planning application for any new infill development, even if it adheres to the bylaws.
“The main thing for us is that now that our awareness of the weaknesses in the zoning bylaw has increased, is to advocate for changes to the bylaw that do honour the Official Plan of the municipality and that work to make infill development more compatible with the beautiful community we live in,” she said.
- with files from Erika Engel