Resident David Gilday has zero faith that city hall will stop a proposed multi-family dwelling at the old Bartam Trailer Park on School Draw Avenue, but the property owner counters that it’s not a park and he’s been trying for many years to develop it.
Neighbours in close proximity to the site received a letter from the City of Yellowknife’s planning department on April 17 stating that they have until May 1 to comment or provide recommendations regarding a proposed 65-unit family dwelling by Edmonton-based developer Mike Mrdjenovich, owner of Nova Builders Inc.
According to the letter from city planner Libby Macphail, the lot is conditionally permitted but requires a decision by council.
Gilday, a longtime resident of School Draw Avenue, said he believes, based on discussion with the planning department, that a comparison is going to be made to the Gino Pin eight-unit condominium that wraps around McDonald Drive, but Gilday doesn’t see the similarity.
He doesn’t believe the School Draw Avenue project follows the zoning bylaw.
The building is expected to be 89 meters long and 14.58 metres high — over four storeys — according to the proposed site plan.
Gilday has been fighting for close to 30 years to maintain the integrity of the neighbourhood and he said he’s prepared to oppose this proposed project to ensure the bylaws are followed.
“I think this is an important public issue,” he said. “The city has, for whatever their reasons … refused to sanction Nova for turning that land into a garbage dump, which gives me no confidence that they have any intention or that we can rely on city hall to enforce the bylaws with any objectivity.”
Gilday alleges that the site was used to store potentially hazardous waste and garbage from the Chateau Nova Hotel within the last two years after public outcry forced Nova Builders to clean up the site.
Gilday said he has written Mrdjenovich and the city about this issue numerous times within the last five years.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve written to him — many, many times — over that garbage over there that included things like the storage of petroleum products and 45-gallon barrels, the storage of diesel or heating fuel in old worn out, fuel tanks,” Gilday said, noting at least one of them was tipped over. “Under appeal, Nova said all these are all for future building there, which of course is just foolish.
“The city wasn’t prepared to do anything about it.”
Gilday said although the planning department has remained open and willing to communicate with residents, he doesn’t have faith in the city in enforcing the zoning bylaw as it applies to this project.
“I’m finally saying OK, the big developments coming, it’s flying in the face of all the bylaws,” Gilday said. “All I can anticipate is — as an individual who’s tried to keep this neighborhood a good neighborhood for many years — I can only expect city hall to simply roll over and do whatever this Alberta developer wants done.”
Other neighbours said they were surprised by the proposed project. Cathy Cudmore, one of Gilday’s neighbours, said she doesn’t believe the development fits the area, either.
“As a neighborhood we’re just concerned that they’re asking council to say that that type of building is the same or similar as a small walk-up apartment and similar to the building at the causeway,” Cudmore said. “We don’t think it fits in the neighborhood, and I guess we’re actually surprised that it has gotten as far as going out to neighborhoods for comments.
“We feel it’s precedent setting for the future. If that type of development is allowed in this neighborhood, then I think it opens the doors to any future development which would we think spoil Old Town.”
Mayor Rebecca Alty said the issue is a significant housing development proposal and will be on the agenda at the May 4 Government Priorities Committee for consideration.
Mrdjenovich said he has been pushing to develop the land for most of the 20-plus years since he bought it from the city. Ideally, he wants to get a development permit and start construction this year.
“We want to start this summer but if they don’t, then we won’t,” he said.
“We have proposed a nice apartment building and we would like to build it if we have permission. But for 20 years since I bought it from the city, the local neighbourhood wants to use it to own a park.
“It seems like every time they oppose anything we want to build and a few people there try to stop everything we’ve tried.”
Asked about concerns over the project not conforming with the character of the neighbourhood, Mrdjenovich said he doesn’t buy the argument.
“There are a few warehouses across the street and a few houses, so what is the neighbourhood there?” he asked, referring to some of his critics as “tree huggers.”
“They will come up with everything or anything.”
Mrdjenovich was also asked about the potential hazardous materials or garbage that residents have criticized him about.
“It’s my land and it’s not garbage,” he said. “It is building material and I’m storing it, so what do they expect? It is my land and I’m paying taxes and I don’t exactly know how much, but in the last 20 years I’ve paid $200,000 to 400,000 in taxes.“