Edmonton neighbourhood signs legal document to stop infill

Residents of a south Edmonton community have said it’s their last-ditch effort to stop lot-splitting in their area. The majority of residents in Westbrook have signed a restrictive covenant that would prevent subdivision.

Those organizing the effort said they expect to have 80 per cent of residents on board by the end of June.

A restrictive covenant is an agreement between two or more neighbours that would restrict a specific action on a property, like subdividing a lot.

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    Westbrook is just one of the communities looking to put a stop to infill, after the city changed the rules in April 2015, allowing all lots that are more than 50 feet to be sub-divided.

    WATCH: Edmonton city councillor holds infill forum for Rio Terrace residents

    “I understand their frustrations,” said Ward 5 Councillor Michael Oshry.

    Oshry said the decision to introduce the infill bylaw was made because of “lots and lots of appropriate evidence.”

    “I’m not sure it’s necessarily going to accomplish what they’re looking for,” he said Tuesday.

    Those who deal in real estate law said it’s a big step to take, and owners should be careful.

    “Each owner would have to sign,” said Shane Parker, a real estate lawyer for more than two decades. “If you get 80 per cent agreement you would obviously then have 20 per cent that won’t agree.”

    Those who don’t sign the covenant would still be able to subdivide their properties.

    “The end result could be a checker board effect. That wouldn’t be the intended result,” said the Parker and Dubrule lawyer.

    The city may also have a legal argument against the agreements.

    “It may be open to an attack that it could be voided because it is against public policy,” Parker said, and warned about the unintended consequences.

    “Ways to discharge a restrictive covenant are very limited.”

    Parker added the entire neighbourhood would have to sign off if you decide to go against the covenant or you would have to take it to court and prove that the reason for the restrictive covenant no longer applies.

    “I would strongly urge caution with owners to review this with their own lawyer, obtain independent legal advice to make sure they understand what encumbering their property will mean for them in the future.”

    WATCH: New infill approach helps older Edmonton neighbourhood maintain character: city

    Residents in other neighbourhoods aren’t taking as dramatic of an approach, instead putting out lawn signs and lobbying their councillors.

    Jason Chin is a resident in Lansdowne. The home right next door to his will be torn down and two skinny homes will replace it.

    Even though it’s too late for his next-door neighbour, Chin has recently put up a sign on his front lawn that reads: “City Council- subdivisions not needed or wanted here.”

    “It’s the context, it’s the characteristic of the neighbourhood,” Chin told Global News.

    Chin has lived in Lansdowne for the last five years and said he chose the neighbourhood because of the way it looks.

    Lansdowne isn’t looking at a restrictive covenant yet, but hasn’t closed the door on it completely. He said for now they will ask the city to take a step back on the project and see how it’s affecting communities.

    “Why are we actually in such a rush to do it when we can probably work out other solutions?”

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