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Potential Tin Can Hill apartment project concerns neighbours

A plan to develop 26 lower-cost apartments by the main access point to Yellowknife’s Tin Can Hill wilderness area is raising some concerns.

Council's quick approval of more density raises questions about parking overflow

The location of the lot on which Findlay Group Inc. would like to build a 26-unit apartment building, at the access to Tin Can Hill. (City of Yellowknife )

A plan to develop 26 lower-cost apartments by an access point to Yellowknife's Tin Can Hill wilderness area is raising some concerns among neighbours. 

"We'd like to get started this year if we can," Robert Findlay, the owner of Calgary-based Findlay Group Inc., told city councillors Tuesday.

Findlay, an architect who grew up in Yellowknife and whose father served as mayor in the 1970s, described the development as "a lower price point rental project."

The steel components would be built in Alberta, shipped up by seacan and "stacked like Lego" at the site, located to the left of the main road access to the Tin Can Hill trails, at the southern end of School Draw Avenue.

The lot at the base of Tin Can Hill. (CBC News )

His company recently built similarly-sized buildings for the City of Calgary's Attainable Homes Calgary Corporation.

Findlay needed councillors' approval to increase the number of units on the lot to 26 from 21. Findley said with the lot last appraised at $585,000, the increase would help make the project more economical.

The lot has been up for sale since 2012.

Three councillors voted in favour of the change, with councillor Julian Morse opposing. Councillor Adrian Bell — the realtor for a townhome for sale directly facing the lot — acted as mayor and thus did not vote.

An artist's interpretation of the proposed apartment building.

A longtime next-door neighbour

Megan Mindus lives in the house to the left of where the apartment building would go.

She grew up in the home, eventually purchasing it from her parents, and is now raising her own children there.

"I used to make forts there," she said of Tin Can Hill.  

Mindus attended Findlay's presentation and opposes the project for admittedly personal reasons: she's worried the value of her home will depreciate, that she'll be blocked from the sun and that blasting could cause damage.

Findlay said he doesn't know yet if blasting will be required.

Mindus also worries about spillover from the apartment building's rear parking lot.

"In Yellowknife, everyone has recreational vehicles," she said. "So when this development goes through, they're allocating one vehicle per apartment. Where are the rest of those vehicles going to go?"

Neighbour Megan Mindus worries about parking overflow from the proposed building, which is slated for a lot where people currently park to use the trails. (Guy Quenneville/CBC )

Dissatisfaction with city notice

Recreational vehicles were parked on School Draw Avenue near the lot on Wednesday. A couple of snowmobiles were parked in the middle of the lot itself.

"In Yellowknife, if there's vacant land, it'll get used," said Sean Marshall, who lives in one of townhomes directly facing the lot.

He, too, worries about the parking issue, particularly if it hampers visitor access to the hill.  

But it's the speed with which Findlay's request for more units went from paper notice to slam dunk that really took Marshall aback.

He said he received a July 22 notice from the City of Yellowknife about Tuesday's meeting, but that notice did not include any sketches of the development from Findlay, much less the name of the development company.

Nor did the subsequent July 25 notice — which did include sketches — mention that the vote on the number of units would actually take place mere hours after Findlay's presentation.

"It boggles the mind for us how a decision like that was taken so quickly and so lightly," said Marshall.

He said in the future he wants the city to make the timeline for decision-making — and any and all opportunities for residents to weigh in — clearer, and for that communication to happen earlier. 

Neighbour Sean Marshall was taken aback by the speed with which Findlay's request for more units was approved by council. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

No development permit yet 

Findlay acknowledged the concerns about parking, and said that, in light of them, he moved the location of the parking lot to the rear of the building.

"It seems to me the traffic concerns have to do with everybody going and parking at Tin Can Hill, hiking and taking dogs for a walk," he said.

"I understand the city is at some point going to build a parking lot down there. We would be interested in getting involved with that."

Findlay has not yet applied for a development permit; he and the city still have to come to a purchase agreement, and a new appraisal of the lot needs to happen before that. 

Once the city approves a development permit, residents have 30 days to appeal it.

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