Breckenridge Rezoning Declined a Second Time

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Feature 04 5
Residents gather for the March 20 public hearing. Brenda Sawatzky

For the second time in six months, Fifth Avenue Estates project manager Clint Hiebert appeared in front of Niverville’s council alongside local residents to weigh in on a proposal to rezone a section of Breckenridge Drive. For the second time, the zoning request was denied.

The developer’s request, as presented on March 20, was similar to the first round: to rezone a series of lots from single-family residential to two-family residential. What had changed since the first proposal was the number of lots affected, bringing the total down from 27 to ten. As well, they eliminated their earlier request to subdivide the lots into smaller parcels. Finally, the ten lots in question would not include any lakefront properties, to appease the concerns of owners on the other side of the lake.

“In 2011, when the plans for this area of the subdivision were initially conceived, the real estate market for single-family land in Niverville was much more active, and despite efforts to combat this, it has since declined,” Hiebert said in his address to council.

Hiebert indicated that this tactic is being used by other developers in the Niverville area who are feeling the same pinch in trying to meet changing housing demands. While he understands residents’ concerns, he presented his own evidence to suggest that declining property values due to duplex housing should not be among them.

At the close of his address, Hiebert vocalized his disappointment that affected residents were unwilling to discuss their concerns with Fifth Avenue Estates before the public hearing date. “It must be said that, despite efforts by Fifth Avenue Estates to dialogue with the public with regards to this application by open invitation to call us or meet with us, as well as attempts at private communication with select individuals, not a single resident has come forward to engage in any discussion.”

One by one, residents stepped forward to publicly state their own frustrations. Impassioned statements were made about the poorly maintained condition of the lots in question, citing a possibility for the real reason they are not selling. Others shared their dismay at being required to go through this process again. A petition with 184 signatures was presented, more than the first petition in September 2017.

Jacqueline Robert Choptiuk disagrees with Hiebert regarding the effect duplexes have on single-family property values.

“They presently have townhouses built across a section of Breckenridge facing the lakefront homes,” says Choptiuk. “Those homes took years to sell. This concerned many homeowners [who want] to protect their investment. Many are retired couples who have worked their entire lives and view their home as a future investment, and young families that have their life savings tied up in their home and can’t take a possible $75,000 hit.”

And while Hiebert assured residents that the planned duplexes would allow contained parking for three vehicles per household—one in the garage and two on the driveway—Choptiuk says she’s seen it before. Duplexes attract young growing families who use the garage for storage, pushing cars to the street. This in turn can lead to two problems: attracting more crime and car theft and making the streets less safe for children.

At the close of the public hearing, Councillor Nathan Dueck made a motion to decline the rezoning request. Council unanimously voted in favour of his motion. The decision was met with a round of applause from the audience.

However, Mayor Myron Dyck took a final opportunity to make his own address to those in attendance. In answer to the question of why council would allow the developer to put the residents through this process a second time, Dyck suggested that the developer had, in fact, made significant concessions from the original plan. They had listened to the public and removed from the proposal all of the lots with a lake view.

Council encouraged the developer, he says, to talk to the residents in an effort to avoid pulling them into another public hearing.

“I have been copied in on emails that the developer sent [out to you],” Dyck said. “They have made the effort and people have said to them, ‘We don’t want to talk to you. We’ll talk to you at the public hearing.’”

At the same time, Dyck pointed out that council is keenly interested in providing a diversity of housing in the community.

“It’s the ebb and the flow that makes up both sides,” Dyck said. “We want to work with the developer. They could just as easily pull up roots and say, ‘See you. We’re off to somewhere else.’ We need our developers. At the same time, we’re also elected by you to work for you. Therein lies the reason that you elect people like us: to make some of those tough decisions. And tonight, that decision has been made.”

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