Garneau residents upset by 'skinny' infill apartments

Kathy Bruce-Kavanagh has lived in the Garneau neighbourhood for decades. She’s upset with how infill is affecting her community, particularly the increasing number of permits being issued for “skinny” apartments on lots formerly occupied by just one home.

Council has 'infill mania,' says one resident frustrated by changes in neighbourhood

The city has issued a development permit to build an apartment building where the middle house is now. (Google Street View)

Kathy Bruce-Kavanagh has lived in the Garneau neighbourhood for decades and she's upset about infill housing affecting her community.

She's particularly unhappy with the increasing number of permits being issued for "skinny" apartment buildings on lots formerly occupied by just one home.

"Density is one thing," she said in an interview. "But the lots are too small for what's being built on them."

Bruce-Kavanagh said the city has "infill mania" when it comes to Garneau.

"You build a really nice new house and then there's an apartment that's built a door down or two doors down," she said.

"So I'm sure people feel betrayed by the city when that happens."

She's concerned about where all the new residents will park and how the city's aging infrastructure in the neighbourhood will handle the challenge.

"The sewers and the water have not been upgraded for all these new units," she said. "You sort of wonder if it isn't going to collapse at some point."

Houses being replaced by apartments

The Garneau community league is challenging the development permit for a skinny apartment at 11007 85th Ave. Right now, it's a single-family dwelling on a small 400 square-metre lot.

The city bylaw requires a minimum of 800 sq. m. for a development like this apartment.

But after a hearing at the subdivision and development appeal board, an exception was made and a permit for the three-storey apartment was issued.

The city said the municipal tax portion amounts to $2,476 for an average home, providing more than 80 kinds of municipal programs and services. (Supplied)

Anne de Villars is the chair of planning for the Garneau community league.

"It seems as though city council is so intent on infill, they don't care what kind of infill you get," de Villars said.

She said the problem is particularly bad in middle Garneau, from 82nd Avenue to 87th Avenue, between 109th Street and 111th Street.

"If it keeps on going like this in middle Garneau, there won't be any middle Garneau left of the heritage that city council says, in its plans, it wants to preserve," she said.

'Distrust' in neighbourhood

Coun. Ben Henderson, who represents Garneau, said he's concerned about changes to neighbourhoods that come about because of exceptions to the bylaw.

"If the zoning needs to be changed, then we should look at the zoning and have a good public discussion about that," Henderson said.

"I just worry that when we do it through variance, it creates a distrust in the community which is not what we need right now. We need to be moving forward on this together in a way that everybody can get behind."

Kalen Anderson, director of the planning coordination system within the city's planning branch, is part of the team working on the future of infill in Edmonton.

On Wednesday, council's urban planning committee will see a report outlining ideas for the Evolving Infill Program in Edmonton.

Anderson recognizes that many residents have concerns about infill, such as the skinny apartment buildings in Garneau.

"There are legitimate concerns and fears and it's an emotional conversation," she said. "It's a complicated conversation."

Henderson warns the city needs to get it right when it comes to future infill.

"I've always said if we do infill as badly as we've done sprawl, we will have exactly the same consequence," he said.

"There's ways to do infill well and ways that can be quite disruptive."


Nola Keeler is an award-winning journalist who has worked with CBC in Whitehorse, Yukon and Edmonton since 2000. She has worked as a host, reporter, news reader and producer for CBC. Send story ideas to nola.keeler@cbc.ca.