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Niven Lake debate is over

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 01/05) - After a marathon meeting Monday, a bitterly divided city council moved a step closer to ending the ongoing debate over double-wide trailers in the Niven Lake development.

The council-led move to rezone Phase VI of the Niven Lake subdivision began last April after developer Les Rocher began to install trailers on the site.

City administration said the units violated the zoning bylaw and were placed there without approval.

Faced with a housing crunch, a majority of councillors felt that home buyers have waited long enough for the 92 lots to be developed. They want the zoning bylaw amended so the double-wides can stay.

During Monday's sometimes-heated debate Coun. Kevin O'Reilly called the developer "intransigent."

The comment drew reaction from councillors Doug Witty and Alan Woytuik, both of whom demanded O'Reilly retract his statement or be removed from the council chamber.

"That's unacceptable," said Witty.

When reached the next day, developer Rocher said he didn't know what intransigent meant. City Hall staff themselves had to look it up Wednesday morning.

According to the Oxford dictionary, it means "one who is uncompromising."

Rocher said he was never uncompromising with his plan for Phase VI.

He pointed to the changes he made to his plans, including the removal of corner lots near a nature trail and a cul-de-sac that was appealed. He also met with Niven Lake residents last year to hear their concerns.

"They should let us get our jobs done, and come look at our homes," said Rocher. "I don't need fancy words."

O'Reilly eventually retracted his statement.

Monday's debate led to 13 rulings, all of which, with one exception, failed to satisfy the multitude of complaints Niven Lake residents made at a June 13 public hearing.

A central argument was that the double-wides wouldn't provide affordable housing -- estimated at between $250,000 to $300,000, and would lower property values for neighbouring "stick-built" homes.

The only concession granted was to decrease the number of homes that can be similar to each other from one out of every four to one out of every six.

Coun. Mark Heyck, who voted with O'Reilly on many of the 13 rulings, echoed a resident's complaint, saying that nothing is as it appears when it comes to development in the city.

"Things always seem to change, and from my perspective that seems quite accurate."