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Outcrop blasting angers residents

Jennifer Obleman
Northern News Services
Friday, August 3, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - Development in the Niven Lake subdivision hasn't quite spilled onto the trail, but it's edging too close for the comfort of some local residents.

Blasting began last week on an outcropping of rock where a new lot is being developed only metres from the southwest corner of the trail.

Part of the outcropping remains, but not enough to suit Yellowknife resident Walt Humphries, who walks the trail often.

"If they develop those lots, they're going to have houses looking right on the trail. I think they shouldn't do that," said Humphries.

"They keep taking bits and pieces of the trail. Right now it feels like you're walking through people's back yards."

Former city Coun. Kevin O'Reilly said he wasn't surprised residents were upset by the blasting.

"That was the only buffer between the trail and the lot. I fought to get that lot out of there because I knew it was going to cause problems. I lost that battle at council and you can see the result," said O'Reilly.

"You've got a developer that is more interested in making money than protecting the trail, and the city has allowed that to happen."

O'Reilly said the city should have had the lot lines clearly staked and staff on site to protect the buffer zone to ensure better monitoring and enforcement on the trail.

He also suggested some sort of volunteer-run trail guardian program, where local residents could help prevent encroachment.

City Coun. Shelagh Montgomery received a call about the blasting and went to see it for herself. She followed up with an e-mail to the city about what she called an "unfortunate situation."

"I've had a quick response from the city: 'The property belongs to Homes North, and they have the right to clear their lots,'" said Montgomery.

"Unfortunately, it's one of these things that when Niven Lake Phase VI was divvied up, they allowed the lot lines to be very close to the Niven Lake trail."

There are stricter zoning regulations in place regarding landscaping for future developments, Montgomery noted, which should help preserve natural environments, and the city is also developing a tree protection bylaw following a motion passed by council last month.

If the bylaw proves similar to those passed in other communities, it would mean residents must have a permit to cut down any tree of a certain size or age anywhere in the city.

The loss of trees alongside the Niven Lake trail due to private paths being cut through the woods to connect people's yards with the trail is an even greater concern to Niven Drive resident Sean Kollee than the close proximity of the lots to the trail.

But both are an encroachment on the trail, according to Kollee.

"The trail is completely encroached. It's lost the sense a pedestrian gets that they're walking through the forest," Kollee said.

"People should be leaving a portion of their rear yards in their natural state."

Even if new rules were put in place, they'd probably be difficult to enforce when building actually began, said Kollee, adding it could be up to area residents to hold the city accountable.

Les Rocher with Homes North says the Niven Lake subdivision is absolutely not encroaching on the trail.

"There are no lots encroaching on the trail. Whoever said that is an absolute fool," Rocher said.

The city's planning and land department estimates there are roughly 17 more lots to be developed in Phase VI.

The next phase of the Niven Lake development, which is slated to include about 80 new lots, could potentially start as early as next spring.