If it seems too good to be true, it just might be.
Ron Earl’s purchase of a cheap undersized lot on Ravenscliffe Road with the hopes of getting planning approvals in order to build a small house and garage for his son did not go as planned.
His application was back before Huntsville’s Planning Committee on March 14 after it was deferred in February so committee members could conduct a site visit. At the time, committee members heard from a neighbour who said he had been offered the lot for $500, but upon further investigation was told by Town staff that the lot was too small to build on. He said he informed the buyer of the same and told him he’d be opposed to the lot being developed as it is too close to his home, but the lot was purchased anyway.
Two area residents told committee they were opposed to the lot being development, namely because of its size and proximity to neighbours, while the applicant told committee it would enable him to build an affordable house.
“The biggest issue to build an affordable house is you’ve got to find an affordable lot,” he said.
Councillor Bob Stone, who chaired the March committee meeting in Councillor Nancy Alcock’s absence, asked staff why they were now recommending approval to build on the lot. “Obviously previous staff have told constituents that it’s really not a buildable lot, how is that you feel it is a buildable lot?” he asked.
Huntsville Planner Curtis Syvret told committee that the question comes up from time to time as to whether any undersized lot can be built on. “Staff are very hesitant to ever suggest that an existing undersized lot could be developed because we don’t know the site specific conditions,” he told committee. “In this case the applicant purchased the lot knowing that it wasn’t buildable and has gone through the effort of showing that it’s buildable, that they can properly site a sewage disposal system, site a well appropriately, they can site develop to meet the setback requirements of the bylaw and have even gone as far as to obtain an entrance permit and a septic permit…”
“When somebody can establish that a lot is buildable, how did we establish it wasn’t?” asked Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano.
Syvret explained that the bylaw for existing lots of record stipulates a minimum size for privately, partly serviced and fully serviced lots to ensure there is adequate space for septic systems, wells and to allow safe access to the lots. He said the rural lot in question is about 421 square meters smaller than the bylaw permits but noted that the biggest impact of developing that particular lot would be a visual one for neighbouring properties.
“To address that staff are requesting that [a]site plan be required for approval of this application, which will allow us to ensure that a sufficient vegetative buffer is maintained around the abutting [property]line,” he said.
Huntsville Councillor Jonathan Wiebe said he could not support the application. “I was out to see the property and my comments from the last meeting remain the same, that I don’t feel that there’s an urgency to infill out in the rural areas in small lots.”
“I guess we have to remember this committee is here for exactly this purpose,” said Councillor Jason FitzGerald. “So for someone to think that a lot that doesn’t meet the requirements can’t be built on, if that was the case we wouldn’t exist. I think we’re going to see more applications like this. And we have a housing crisis here so these are things that I think we are going to have to consider more seriously and look favourably upon.”
Stone was not in favour. “To strip all the trees from a given lot in order just to barely make it happen, just because you can, maybe doesn’t mean you should.”
In the end committee voted against the recommendation of staff to allow the lot to be built on.
Committee’s decision will go to Huntsville Council for ratification.
Don’t miss out on Doppler! Sign up for our free newsletter here.