Pretty up the city
Zoning bylaw requires new homes to have new trees

Cindy MacDougall
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 02/00) - You'll still be allowed to park your truck in the driveway and build a treehouse in the backyard, but come this spring, land around new homes and buildings will need some extra care.

The city's proposed zoning bylaw is inching closer to becoming law, after a year of public forums, debate and revisions.

One of the most significant changes to the current bylaw requires property owners to put a little love into their lots, said Dave Jones of the city's planning and lands department.

"In the current bylaw, the development officer can order landscaping to be done, but it's not absolutely required," Jones said.

"In the proposed bylaw, we have very specific requirements for landscaping. In fact, 100 per cent of a property is required to be landscaped."

The proposed bylaw requires property owners to plant one tree for every 30 square metres of land not covered by a building.

Trees must be between one and two metres tall, depending on the type of tree.

Trees and vegetation already growing on the site and any other natural aspects of a site, such as a rock facing, can substitute for planned landscaping.

Jones said other types of landscaping can be approved by development officers such as himself.

"Before people get too far along, we can iron out any problems and help them do what they want," he said.

"We find it much more helpful to discuss something before you finish your plans and spend a lot of money."

The proposed bylaw only applies to newly developed properties. Existing homes and businesses don't need to rush around planting trees and shrubs.

The landscaping provisions caused some controversy earlier this year when a few councillors worried about the bylaw being too restrictive.

Dave Karpan of Karpan Konstruction said some potential customers of his home-building business may be turned off by the cost of landscaping around a new home.

"It probably would affect us a little bit because landscaping's expensive," Karpan said.

"It might make people not as willing to build a home because landscaping costs are above and beyond the cost of building and it's not covered by the mortgage."

Karpan said most homeowners also choose to landscape on their own rather than contracting a company to do it, which can take time.

However, landscape architect Margaret Ferguson said planting a few trees is a light burden on a property owner.

"One tree per 30 metres is about one tree per lot," she said.

"It is probably a low number of trees, therefore, it is not very restrictive.

"It will provide the city with some greenery without making the costs prohibitive."

Few people are building new homes now, but a few major buildings are being constructed, such as the new Weledeh school on 46th Street.

Yellowknife Catholic school board superintendent Kern Von Hagen said having to landscape the property around St. Patrick high school and Weledeh after the construction is finished will be a pleasant challenge.

"It always means money," he said.

"But I don't think it's untoward to expect a certain amount of development in the city. It wears well for us, I think."

City council has not yet set a date to vote on the final draft of the bylaw. Jones said planning and lands will give its final recommendations later this winter.