Burke home is too big for small lot

A Burke Mountain property owner was told last week he can't build a home on land he has owned for more than 40 years — at least, not at the size he wants.

Last Monday, city council narrowly defeated the plan to build a three-storey, 3,000-square foot house on a tiny lot at the corner of Burke Mountain Street and Wilkie Avenue, saying the owner was trying to pack too house much on too little land.

According to city documents, Don Stubbert bought the lot in 1972 and now wants to sell it to pay off the mortgage on his home in Armstrong, where he currently lives.

Because the land is steep and bisected by West Smiling Creek, his agents spent two years working with engineers and city staff to find ways to build the house.

Stubbert asked for four variances for council's approval:

• to change the flood-protection setback from 15 m to 11 m;

• to vary the front-yard setback from 7.6 m to 2.5 m for the main floor and upper floor;

• to alter the side-yard setback from 3.8 m to 1.5 m for the basement, main and upper floors;

• and to vary the maximum permitted building height from 11 m to 11.4 m.

Consultant engineers deemed the land "technically feasible" to build the house.

And in December, after council had reviewed the bid, Stubbert agreed to remove the proposed secondary suite even though, in the RS-2 zone, it is allowed.

Still, neighbours told council the site was too tight for such a big house. "It's like trying to fit two pounds of sand into a one-pound bag," a Wilkie resident said.

Vasile Horvath, who also lives on Wilkie, added his concern to council at its Feb. 6 meeting about the potential construction impact on the creek and nearby homes.

Coun. Lou Sekora was sympathetic to Stubbert's plight, telling council, "To say he can't build on this property after paying taxes on it for 40 years is unfortunate."

Mayor Richard Stewart agreed, noting council should "bend — but not in half."

Coun. Craig Hodge, also a Burke Mountain homeowner, said the rules have changed for development near environmentally sensitive areas. He said he toured the steep property recently and commented on the risks.

"The community has an expectation that what will be built there will fit into the character of the neighbourhood," he said, adding, "The expectations are too high given the challenges."

Coun. Selina Robinson said while she didn't want council to "sterilize the corner," Stubbert was asking for too much. "I encourage the owner to rethink the vision."

"There are too many variances," Coun. Neal Nicholson added. "We have to compromise but this is too much compromise. It's possible to build a reasonable house."

The DVP was defeated, with councillors Hodge, Robinson and Nicholson and Mayor Stewart opposing; Coun. Brent Asmundson excused himself from the decision as he lives nearby while Coun. Mae Reid was absent from the meeting.

A call to Stubbert's realtor was not immediately returned.


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