Infill debate continues to rage in west Edmonton neighbourhood

The west Edmonton neighbourhood is just the latest in a long line of battlegrounds where developers and residents have been clashing.

A proposed infill project in Rio Terrace has made it the latest in a long line of battlegrounds

The splitting of of a west end lot in Rio Terrace is the latest battleground in Edmonton's infill debate. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

The never-ending infill debate has been raging in Edmonton for years and now has a new battleground.

What sparked the ground war this time? The splitting of a lot in Rio Terrace.

The west Edmonton neighbourhood is made up primarily of single-family homes built in the 1960s. Many of the families who moved into the area when it was first built still live there. 

The proposed infill project has become the latest in a long line of clashes between developers and residents.

Peggy Nesbitt is a 40-year resident of Rio Terrace. She said the lots in the neighbourhoods are too small and if subdivided, could potentially lead to sewer or fire risks. 

"We're really not opposed to infills. We're opposed to subdivision," said Nesbitt on Edmonton AM. "We truly believe in responsible infills." 

"What we're concerned about is yards that are being subdivided into much smaller spaces. In particular, in our neighbourhood where we have no back alleys."

Peggy Nesbitt says the lots in the Rio Terrace are too small if divided could potentially lead to sewer or fire risks. (CBC)

Nesbitt thinks the style of the houses won't fit the surrounding dwellings and believes infills may be needed in Edmonton but should happen in neighbourhoods that are full of "derelict" homes.

She said she's not completely opposed to infills in her neighbourhood but only if the process is done properly and residents have a say. 

Mick Graham, the president of Single Tree Builders, said infills are needed, even in Rio Terrace. He said the neighbourhood has lost about 20 per cent of its population since it was built and suffers the same problem that plagues many other mature Edmonton communities. 

"We're left with these schools that are under-subscribed. We're left with transit that doesn't work really well," explained Graham. "The city is trying to work with infills, and I see it as a solution to some of our urban problems."

"We can't afford to keep building ring roads, so we have to find ways to increase density in these mature neighborhoods."

Mick Graham, the president of Single Tree Builders, says that the infills are needed in Edmonton.

Nesbitt doesn't believe that the infills will have the effect that Graham and other advocates of the practice preach. 

She said that the tall and skinny homes aren't large enough for a family and that the half-filled schools in the neighbourhood are now providing much-needed amenities like day cares. 

Those opposed to infills say their a primary problem is the reliability and competence of the contractors involved. 

This might not be a perfect solution...but it's a solution- Mick Graham

There have been so many horror stories of infills being constructed in mature neighbourhoods that the city has created an "Infill Construction Compliance Team." The team is comprised of three specially-trained peace officers.

The officers will be able to issue fines and lay charges on developers and contractors who don't follow the rules.

Graham said infills are used to increase the density in neighbourhoods in an attempt to combat urban sprawl. He believes that Edmonton is taking responsible action by pushing for these developments.  

"This might not be a perfect solution, allowing the subdivision of the lots, but it's a solution," said Graham. "I think it's a step in the right direction."

"But yeah, it's going to change neighbourhoods."

Some residents in Rio Terrace are gearing up to fight an infill project. But an Edmonton builder says infill is good for the city. 9:31

The infill project in Rio Terrace was sent for approval last week. Nesbitt said there is no appeal process, so if it goes through it's a done deal. 

But, she adds, Rio Terrace residents don't give up easily.