Red Deer city councillors were as divided on carriage homes as neighbours in Woodlea.
After hearing from a series of speakers with entrenched opinions on either side of the issue, the majority of councillors decided it was premature to approve an application for a rental home above a garage in the mature neighbourhood.
It would be putting the cart before the horse, said several councillors, who asked for a study to be done first on the pros and cons of building carriage homes in various areas throughout the city.
”This is just the first debate of many to come, unless we determine a broader vision,” said Mayor Tara Veer.She voted against the site exception — proposed by Ken Duhamel and Carly Enright for a carriage house at 5334-43rd Ave. — along with Coun. Vesna Higham, Tanya Handley, Frank Wong, Michael Dawe, and Lawrence Lee.
Coun. Ken Johnston and Dianne Wyntjes voted in favour of the application (and Buck Buchanan was absent).
The decision was a victory for the Woodlea community members who had been battling against what they described as putting two homes on one 200-foot deep lot. A loss of privacy, higher density, lack of back lane amenities and losing the character of their neighbourhood were among their concerns.
Many councillors were sorry about the deep division that‘s developed in Woodlea over the carriage house application.
Veer believes it happened because this proposal just the latest change for the transitional neighbourhood that now includes oversized garages, lot subdivisions, infill development and small older homes being replaced with large modern ones.
While no one can predict if the community rift will heal once city planners thoroughly study carriage houses, some councillors suggested neighbours will feel better to have been consulted and have the issue thoroughly reviewed.
Duhamel, who’s been trying to get a carriage house in his yard since 2016, was disappointed about the slow process of bureaucracy.But he believes it will be beneficial for Red Deer to have the issue studied city-wide.
He said he still plans to make an application when the study is completed in 2020. Enright noted that about 80 per cent of the 100 Woodlea residents she surveyed were in favour of their application.
City councillors who could not support the carriage house proposal at this time were concerned about the “ad-hoc“ nature of making a decision on site exceptions.
Coun. Lee summarized by saying while there’s no pressure on council to treat this case as a precedent, he would be hard pressed to not approve a similar application if he approved this one.