The landscape of Edmonton’s mature neighbourhoods could be changing, as the city looks at recommendations that will change several rules and regulations for building new homes in old neighbourhoods.

Supporters of the proposed residential in-fill guidelines are looking for more high-density housing.

The goal is to entice more families to older communities in Edmonton, however the proposal is being faced with criticism and controversy.

City council heard Monday, that changes would allow subdividing to 50-foot lots and front-facing garages in areas where they’ve been forbidden in the past.

Eighteen community members spoke to councillors on Monday raising concerns and sharing support for the in-fill guideline changes.

The majority of those who spoke to councillors Monday are in favour of the changes, and hopes to create more opportunities for young families to move into mature neighbourhoods.

“I personally, as a young Edmontonian, would like to see more housing choices in Edmonton,” says homeowner Elaine Hyshka, who was emotional when speaking in front of councillors on Monday.

Hyshka lives in a mature neighbourhood, but says getting there wasn’t easy.

“The option tends to be out of your price range, or they’re in your price range but require substantial renovation,” she said.

Hyshka supports the changes to in-fill guidelines because she believes it will encourage more Edmontonians to move into older areas of the city.

“Give younger people and younger families, as well as other people in Edmonton demographics, more choice and more options for living in a mature neighbourhood.”

Resident Nathaniel Aytenfisu believes the in-fill guidelines make sense.

“It makes efficient and effective use of land in our mature neighbourhoods and it’s a smart way to increase the population density in our neighbourhoods,” he said.

Concerns over natural light, privacy, noise

The main concerns raised were the ability to maintain natural light in the neighbourhoods, maintain privacy, and ensure there wouldn’t be unnecessary mechanical noise.

“Our community finds it particularly disturbing the changes to the mature neighbourhoods overlay. The proposed amendment for front-set backs can range as much as five metres to other properties whereas the existing setback can range only two metres. This creates a misalignment of new houses, disrupting the traditional street wall of the streetscape and reducing sight lines,” said Irene Blain with the West Jasper/Sherwood Community League.

“It produces front-yard shadowing and reduces the number and size of front-yard trees. The proposed amendment for rear-yard set backs can be as small as 7.5 metres whereas currently the rear-yards must be 40 per cent of the lot depth which is 18 metres in West Jasper Place and Sherwood. This change allows for large homes creating excessive shadowing, loss of privacy, and backyard space.”

The mayor believes some people are misunderstanding some changes.

“There are certain things that nobody seemed to complain about, like the 50-foot lots in specific areas, I think there was some misunderstandings on a bunch of other things,” Mayor Stephen Mandel said.

“I'm not sure people have had enough time to understand what the full implications are and how they will play out and unfortunately when you go down this way you create distrust in the system,” said Coun. Ben Henderson.

Hyshka believes until changes are made, the process to build in mature neighbourhoods may not be worth it.

“I would almost think twice about recommending that option to my fiends right now,” she said.

“There’s just so much uncertainty.”

Meanwhile councillors have decided the proposed changes to in-fill guidelines will go back to city administration to clarify issues including natural light, reducing mechanical noise, and regulating decisions made by land officers.

Once amendments are made, the issue will be brought back to executive committee.

With files from Dez Melenka