Yellowknife’s development appeal board has ordered the city to remove a variance granted to the West Bay condominium project at the top of School Draw Avenue, next to Tin Can Hill.
The decision, published earlier this week, follows a months-long bid by neighbouring residents to challenge construction of the condos by developer Milan Mrdjenovich.
While one of the residents’ grounds for appeal was upheld, the majority were dismissed.
At the centre of the appeal board’s decision is a site area density variance, which allows a developer to bend the ordinary rules applicable in the city’s zoning bylaw.
When the city gave Mrdjenovich a permit to develop the condos in June, that permit contained a site area density variance allowed the condos to measure 109.13 square metres per unit, instead of 125 square metres as the zoning bylaw requires.
By allowing smaller units, the variance entitled Mrdjenovich to build more of them, making the building a more profitable proposition.
However, the appeal board – which held a hearing on August 5 and issued its decision on September 29 – found the variance was “not granted correctly.”
Sarah Bercu, the city’s development officer, issued the variance because a former city council had approved that same variance back in 2016, when a different developer was considering buying the same land and had requested the variance.
Only council can grant site area density variances.
Ten other appeal grounds dismissed
Bercu argued the 2016 variance, as granted by council, should still apply. Appellants Kevin and Megan Mindus, who live next to the site, said Bercu had misapplied the zoning bylaw.
The Mindus family argued that, as nearly four years had elapsed since the variance was granted, the variance should have expired. They pointed to a section of the zoning bylaw that states if a development does not start within 12 months of a permit being issued, the permit is void.
As the 2016 developer never did build, the Mindus family said the variance no longer applied – and Mrdjenovich needs to apply to council for a new one.
Because the current council had not considered authorizing any such variance, and because there was no evidence a variance application had been submitted by Mrdjenovich, the appeal board concluded it “rejects the development officer’s argument the 2016 variance approval carries with the land.”
In the same decision, the appeal board dismissed the Mindus family’s 10 other grounds of appeal – such as that the condo development would block sunlight, generate traffic, and decrease their property value.
By removing the variance from Mrdjenovich’s development permit, construction will likely be further delayed as he will now need to apply for his own variance approval.
Reached by phone on Friday, Mrdjenovich said he had not yet had time to look at the appeal board’s decision in detail. West Bay is one of seven projects he’s currently working on, he said.
Mrdjevonich added he will be in Yellowknife this weekend “dealing with the Bartam appeal,” another School Draw Avenue real estate project currently stalled as residents appeal it.
The development appeal board was scheduled to reconvene to discuss that project on Saturday at 10am.
“[The city] is wanting to talk to me more in person when I get there,” said Mrdjenovich of the West Bay condo project.
He expected to have further comment next week, after having time to review the decision and meet with the city.
The City of Yellowknife was unable to provide comment by the end of Friday.