Reduced setback for proposed development problematic

A proposed development in Williams Lake did not receive a variance permit to erect buildings within two metres from the property line.

A proposed development of 34 homes near Eagle Crescent in Williams Lake did not receive a variance permit for buildings to be erected to within two metres from the property line.

Westridge Ventures Ltd. had asked the city to vary its zoning to allow for setback reductions from 5.5 metres to 2 metres and 6.1 metres to 2 metres for principal buildings.

In a four-to-three vote against, council turned down the development variance permit application at its regular meeting Tuesday.

At the meeting, council heard from two residents and the developer about the application.

Elke Reiner lives nearby on Mandarino Place and said she was not against development, but would prefer to see the development on a through road, not a crescent.

“Council must consider a second exit, creating a proper traffic pattern, not a cul-de-sac pattern,” Reiner said. “At the same time it would revitalize the downtown core.”

She explained how she exits Westridge Drive, heads down Highway 20 into the city core.

“If we would have a bridge coming across to Oliver Street, I could go both ways,” she said.

Retired city building inspector and architect Terry Gosling spoke against the proposed layout of the development and suggested a reconfiguration that would would not require a setback adjustment.

“This is not a level piece of land and that’s why the variance application is being made,” Gosling said, adding he’s not comfortable with the application in its present form.

He said the adjusted setback could create a “tudor-like” town where people shake hands from the upper floor windows.

Existing variations of the land for the proposed development are also a problem, Gosling added.

“It drops off steeply to the back of the properties that are currently on Westridge Drive. I can understand the people who live in those houses who have always been apprehensive about this piece of property.”

Gosling reminded council the setback is not for a few lots, but for the whole development.

“I think it’s going to look terrible. Regardless of what the city is going to do about branding, to have something like that as a potential residential development is totally wrong,” he said.

“I wouldn’t want to see us being branded as the city that produces instant slums.”

Gosling said Foster Way was the first recipient of city council’s permission of reduced setbacks in 2003 from 25 feet down to 18 feet.

“Although that is the minimum and there is flexibility to increase the setback, it’s interesting to note that the two lots that were recently developed, one on Westridge and the other on Ridgeview Place, each went for the minimum lot line setback.

Gosling handed out an overlay showing how the developer could maintain the 6.1 metre setback on either side of the street without affecting any properties on Westridge Drive.

“I’m suggesting the road be moved on the left 4.1 metres, leaving the houses on the right as they are. They wouldn’t change their location. The lots on the left would be slightly narrower, but the houses could be pushed back to 6.1 metres.”

It could work, Gosling said, adding there could be other solutions.

“I don’t like being negative, but would rather come up with something that would answer the issues for us.

There are some very sound reasons why adequate setbacks have been established and should be enforced,” he added.

Developer Luigi Mandarino said the design was created by a professional engineer.

“This is the best possible choice for developing the property. We’ve been working on this for about three or four years and with the new geotechnical report conducted for the city it’s becoming more difficult to construct in Williams Lake,” Mandarino said.

“We are on a slope in a valley, not on the flat land where we can move wherever we want.”

People he’d connected with on Westridge Drive and Eagle Crescent are 100 per cent in favour of supporting the variance permit, Mandarino added.

“We didn’t request the variance just for the fun of it, but spent lots of hours trying to figure out how it could work. I don’t see any other way of doing it.”