Decades-old document blocks dream of laneway home for Calgary couple

Dave Robertson and his wife dreamed of building a laneway home for their retirement — but their plans were derailed when they learned of a document from the 1950s called a restrictive covenant.

1950s restrictive covenant limits neighbourhood development

Dave Robertson hoped to build a tiny home on his property only to learn a document from the 1950s blocked that type of building. (Supplied)

Dave Robertson and his wife dreamed of building a laneway home for their retirement — but their plans were derailed when they learned of a document from the 1950s called a restrictive covenant.

Initial steps to build the tiny house on their property in Rutland Park, southwest Calgary, were going smoothly, until they heard rumours of the document, he told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday.

"How bad could this be?" said Robertson.

Even after looking at the pages from 1952, he was still hopeful he could work past the conditions it stipulated — that only one dwelling was allowed on each property and nothing could be built within 25 feet of the rear property line.

But it would mean going to court. 
The restrictive covenant from 1952 prohibits anything other than a garage to be built on properties in the southwest neighbourhood of Rutland Park. (Supplied)

Robertson learned the private agreement was between CP Rail and the original developers, to maintain certain standards in the neighbourhood.

"It's like making a contract with your neighbours," Robertson said.

This particular covenant covered approximately 90 properties — adding another hurdle to the process.

"It's not really a question of just going next door and having a coffee. This is a question of serving notice [to your neighbours], giving them a package of documents, and going to court."

He considered the legal fees to fight it, and believes for the same cost, he could put a down payment on a condo instead. He detailed his struggles in a recent article he wrote
Dave Robertson and his wife's retirement dreams were dashed when they found out they couldn't build a laneway house on the their property, which backs onto Richmond Road. (Supplied)

As the trend of laneway homes and coach homes continues to increase in popularity in other cities, Robertson wants to warn other Calgary homeowners who may face the same roadblock.

"If you're even thinking of doing something like this… pull the title and find out if there's a covenant on it."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener


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