Edmonton

Infill construction angers neighbours, befuddles city council

Edmonton city council is grappling with how to limit the impact of infill construction on neighbouring properties.

Residents complain about cracked foundations, contractor bullying, and basement flooding

Edmonton city council is grappling with rules to reduce the impact of infill construction on neighbours. (CBC)

Edmonton city council is grappling with how to limit the impact of infill construction on neighbouring properties.

Residents shared construction horror stories about flooded basements, cracked foundations and bullying by contractors with councillors on Tuesday.

"Many of the bad construction practices have been a hardship on the neighbours," said Bev Zubot, planning advisor for the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues.

She said while temporary issues such as noise and smell are annoying, the EFCL is more concerned about lasting impacts.

"If you want infill, if you want people to welcome infill, we need to deal with these issues," she said.

Angela Mao attended the meeting to tell council she is still dealing with the poor construction of the infill home that was built next door to her six years ago.

She said the grading of the new home, which is a foot above her lot, has caused water to pool along her basement window and flood her home.

Because the new home technically abides by the city's bylaw, Mao said she has no recourse but to sue her neighbour, which she doesn't want to do.

"The city right now is powerless to help the neighbour, except to tell them to get a lawyer," said Coun. Ben Henderson. "We have absolutely no ability to make [the builders] play ball."

Henderson said the city doesn't have a legal responsibility to intervene, but he thinks council should do so anyway.

City staff are working on a number of ideas to keep bad builders in check, which includes new permit requirements and higher penalties.

Representatives from the Canadian Home Builders' Association said they are on-board with the city's plans, but residents said councillors could go farther.

Right now, enforcement is based on complaints from the community, and that needs to change, said Jan Hardstaff, who represents the housing and development committee for the Park Allen Community League.

She said the city also needs a mechanism for the government and residents to get their money back if their property is damaged.

Henderson said he doesn't think the ideas city staff have put forward  have enough teeth to make a difference.

Councillors will continue the debate on Wednesday afternoon.

CBC reporter Laura Osman was at city hall live blogging from the meeting.

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