Yellowknife’s development appeal board has rejected an attempt by some residents to push back against a 70-unit housing project in Niven Lake.
Milan Mrdjenovich’s company is seeking to construct a four-storey building on Hagel Drive with 14 one-bed and 56 two-bed units, plus 71 associated parking spaces.
In an appeal heard late last month, several nearby condo corporations and a group of associated residents argued the building should not be built without a new traffic study.
Appellants also said the City of Yellowknife had botched communication about the allowable size of developments in the area, and argued the proposal would result in too little parking to meet demand.
To be successful, appeals against developments in Yellowknife are usually expected to show the zoning bylaw has been misapplied by the city’s development officer.
In its Wednesday ruling, the three-person appeal board said the residents had not met that threshold.
“The evidence presented is insufficient to declare that the respondent erred in issuing the development permit,” the board wrote.
In particular, the board stated, the appellants “did not prove that the traffic impacts of the proposed development would be unreasonable, nor that an updated traffic impact study is warranted.”
Residents had argued a 2012 study of traffic in the Niven Lake area was insufficient and the new building would generate too much traffic for the area’s roads to cope. The city and the developer argued a traffic study was not a requirement of the bylaw and existing traffic was, if anything, significantly lower than the 2012 study had forecast.
More generally, the board found that no objection raised by residents could be considered a misapplication of the zoning bylaw.
“The submissions of the appellants did not persuade the board to conclude that there was an error,” the board wrote.
“The decision is in keeping with the Community Planning and Development Act, conforms to the City of Yellowknife community plan and complies with the City of Yellowknife zoning bylaw regulations.
“Any alleged misapplication did not rise to a level to merit a reversal or amendment to the outcome.”
The board’s verdict, which cannot itself be appealed, means Mrdjenovich is now free to build. (A handful of residents this week complained to the city that the company appeared to be going ahead even before the verdict. On Tuesday, the city acknowledged that “work had commenced on site” and said staff were “addressing the situation.”)
Mrdjenovich, the only developer currently taking on major multi-family projects in Yellowknife, has stated he intends to leave the city once this project is complete and work in Iqaluit instead.
He says appeals like this one (the third appeal against one of his projects in the past two years, and the first to be entirely dismissed) take too much time and cost too much money, delaying construction during the short summer season and holding up vital new homes during a housing crisis.
While some Yellowknife residents agree with Mrdjenovich’s view that projects are too easily appealed in the city (which must abide by territorial law governing the process), others say the frequency of appeals demonstrates a faulty system.
They say the city should allow residents a larger, earlier say in proposals, so projects receive their development permit without anyone living nearby feeling excluded.
The city, in turn, has argued its recent community plan and zoning bylaw updates were the time to have those discussions at a conceptual level, and shifts in housing that some residents don’t like – such as increased density – were expressly considered at the time.
Andre Corbeil, who represents one of the condo corporations that appealed against Mrdjenovich’s latest development, stated by email: “We appreciate the time and consideration by the development appeal board.”