Council approves development — with one condition

Construction of seven duplexes on the Road to Nowhere requires consent of neighbours



An Iqaluit developer is considering pulling out of the city after council effectively rejected a proposal for affordable housing.

At a special meeting on Monday, council approved Jomanic-Can Inc.’s request to build seven duplexes in the Road to Nowhere subdivision.

But it made approval of the development contingent on residents’ support.

“The project is dead,” said George D’Aoust, president of Jomanic-Can. “The people who were against multi-unit dwellings [on the Road to Nowhere] will still be against it.”

During a public meeting on May 14, homeowners told city council that building row houses or townhouses in the area would increase traffic and lower the value of their homes.

On May 28, council turned down Jomanic-Can’s application for rezoning, which would have allowed the company to build two duplexes and a 10-plex.

Jomanic-Can’s seven lots are zoned R-1, which means they’re set aside for single-family dwellings and mobile homes. However, in a letter to councillors, D’Aoust says the lots are not suited for single-storey houses, or bungalows, because their location provides for no view whatsoever and the high cost of the land would make them prohibitively expensive.

He adds that Chrystal Fuller, the city’s director of planning and lands, told him that duplexes were also suitable for R-1 lots.

“So we abandoned our plans for the 24 units and proceeded as fast as we could to try and make sealift this year,” the letter says. “Our duplexes meet the construction code, all the proper set-back and conform to existing bylaws. Council has no valid reasons to refuse our development permit.”

He was right. Council approved the permit, but according to D’Aoust, “it was the same as not being approved.”

Council ordered letters be sent to the 11 homeowners on adjacent lots, and posted in three places around town. Affected homeowners will have 14 days to take the matter to the appeals board.

The two-week appeals period is not unusual, but D’Aoust is upset that council took the unusual step of sending letters to homeowners.

“It’s the same as a refusal. It just looks better,” he said.

The decision to put duplexes on R-1 lots is usually at the discretion of council, said Keith Irving, chair of the city’s planning committee. The decision does not generally require consent from neighbours.

“It’s getting hard to build here”

The Road to Nowhere subdivision is a mix of stacked apartments that stretch across the tundra, and custom-built homes. It’s that diversity that started the Road to Nowhere controversy and created a division between residents.

Jomanic-Can’s duplexes would create a barrier between the multi-plexes and single family dwellings in the area. “The proposed duplexes would provide transition,” Fuller said.

And, since multi-plexes were the object of concern for homeowners at the May 14 public meeting, duplexes would appear to be a compromise, she said.

“This is Iqaluit, not Pebble Beach, California,” D’Aoust’s letter to council says. “The subdivision already has multi-family units and apartments. So seven extra units will certainly not have any negative impact on the homeowners.”

Council’s decision means D’Aoust will probably scrap the project and return the land to the city — forfeiting the nearly $150,000 he’s spent on the project to date.

“It’s not the end of the world, but I was told that duplexes would be acceptable, and that’s why I bought the land,” he said.

“It’s getting hard to build here. It’s almost impossible,” he said. “I really think the majority [of councillors] want this. We really thought we had a good case.”

D’Aoust’s next move probably won’t involve council. And it most likely won’t be in Iqaluit.

“We’re looking at other avenues. There’s not much to build here. We’re losing a year. Thank God we’re not a very large company. You can’t keep staff on hope,” he said.

“We have to move ahead. We can’t wait for council to make our next move. The planning committee has a history of shooting things down. Some members of council are very progressive, but there’s a couple of them that wield a lot of power and they have a big influence,” he said.

“As things are now with the present council, I don’t think there’s much hope.”

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