Edmonton

Dozens ask development appeal board to reject big house in Mill Creek ravine

Dozens of lovers of the Mill Creek ravine are urging a city development appeal board to stop a a 4,300-sq-ft. house from going up in the middle of what they consider parkland.

'This is not the place for this house to be built,' local resident says

A rendering of Robert Weinrich's proposed house, prepared by the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society and presented to the city's subdivision and development appeal board. (Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society)

Dozens of lovers of Mill Creek ravine are urging a city development appeal board to stop a 4,300-square-foot house from going up in the middle of the park.

More than 50 people showed up to a subdivision and development appeal board hearing Thursday to explain why they think it's a bad idea.

"The scale of this house means you won't be able to enjoy the nature of the river valley," argued Chris Chan with the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society.

Chan said his organization is worried the home's driveway designed to cross the trail would be dangerous to cyclists and walkers.

"There's a greater chance and risk when you're riding on the trail," he said.

Chris Chan with Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society says vehicles going in and out of the driveway would create a safety issue for people on the trail. (CBC)

In December, the city approved an application from property owner Robert Weinrich to build the home on a lot at 9213 97th St.

The development appeal board can uphold, alter or refuse the approved building permit. If the board chooses to overturn the approval, Weinrich can take the case to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

The board did not release a decision Thursday.

Opponents of the proposed development told the board that Weinrich's ravine lot is not a suitable building site.

"This is not the place for this house to be built," Chantelle Abma told the board.

Abma lives on the south end of the ravine and uses the river valley trails to walk her dogs and go jogging.

She said the house would interfere with the outdoor experience.
Chantelle Abma told the development appeal board the proposed house would block views and overall enjoyment of the Mill Creek ravine. (CBC)

"People go to green spaces because they want a clear visual corridor of the serenity."

She did her homework before presenting to the board. She quoted city policies on public engagement and active transportation.

Abma said the city didn't consult local residents. She said she found out about the approved permit on a Facebook post.

"I thought I should have found out a different way," she said.

Pat Wishart lives in the west end but often uses the Mill Creek trails in warmer months.

"This ravine is a treasure," she told the board.

Wishart is part of the Wild Rose Ramblers, a walking group that will mark its 30th anniversary this year.

Pat Wishart lives in the west end but uses Mill Creek ravine and river valley trails in the warmer months. (CBC)

She quoted a bylaw from 1985 that aims to prevent any further inappropriate development in the river valley.

"It seems the city has taken a step backwards," Wishart said.

She worries if the development is allowed, more will go up in other parks in the city.

The lot's history

The previous house burned down in 2007. The city tried to expropriate the land but was unsuccessful. And when it had a chance to buy the property, the city thought the asking price was too high.

"It was a much, much, more modest house that really fit better with the environment," Chan said of the house that burned.

Ward 8 Coun. Ben Henderson said he regrets the city didn't buy the lot when it had a chance.

At the time, city officials thought the price was higher than what it was worth. 
This house at 9213 97th St. in the ravine burned down in 2007. (Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society)

"I think it would have been good to have a conversation about the city's interests there," Henderson said. "That didn't happen."

He said if the board refuses to allow Weinrich to build his desired home, the city may be interested in buying the lot.

Edmonton has changed

"This site is not suburbia," Peigi Rockwell with the Strathcona community league told the board. "This site is natural park land."

Many echoed that sentiment.

"Edmonton has changed and we've learned the value of nature in our River Valley," Chan said.

"If you ask people, what's the best thing about living in Edmonton? It's going to be the river valley."

@natashariebe

About the Author

Natasha Riebe

Journalist

Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.

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