City policy to instruct developers to be better neighbours

Coun. Evert Botha speaks during a regular council meeting on Dec. 10. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald.

A complaint from a Ward 3 resident frustrated by large amounts of dust and dirt being kicked up by a nearby development has turned into a potential new city policy mandating developers of multi-unit properties to do more to mitigate impacts on existing neighbours.

Council was presented a report to be received for information Tuesday after a resident asked for a bylaw to be put in place making developers clean homes adjacent to properties under construction.

Instead, a majority of council voted to create a one-page policy urging closer cooperation before it becomes an issue.

In an email sent to council, a resident said she has had to clean her walls multiple times as her ducts are filled with dust from nearby development. The dust is coming through her ducts and dirtying her walls.

Since receiving the complaint, the resident worked with the foreman and the city’s planning and development department to come to a resolution.

But her case isn’t the only one.

“There have been two projects in recent memory in Ward 3 where there were some concerns communicated by the neighbours — some pertaining to dust, some pertaining to a fence,” Coun. Evert Botha said as he introduced a motion to develop a policy asking developers to work with neighbours to mitigate construction impacts.

“The contractor in that instance took the time to listen to me, took the time to go meet with the neighbours and come up with an amicable solution. That’s one contractor.”

Botha said the request for a bylaw is probably too strong, but argued that there should be an agreement from developers to “consult and listen to the neighbours and accommodate as much as possible in terms of the impact it will have.”

City staff informed the council that a bylaw would be an overstep. No other communities have such bylaws on the books, they said, and case law has remedies that don’t involve bylaw officers getting involved in disputes between feuding neighbours when a new development is going into an existing neighbourhood.

Botha said the policy could be as simple as one page, identifying multi-unit projects as “substantial” and that the impact of noise, dust and other factors be minimized.

“Very often, we as elected officials play the middleman in these discussions,” Botha said.

“Sooner or later, the keys are going to be handed over to a commercial entity or a not-for-profit or community-based organization, and we don’t want to have our residents have issues with tenants due to issues with contractors or developers. Just a simple one-pager — be willing to listen to them.”

Botha’s motion got some support at council, notably from Mayor Greg Dionne and Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody, who nodded along as he spoke.

Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick asked the planning and development department whether this was a common occurrence, and said that if it wasn’t, a policy probably isn’t necessary.

Department director Craig Guidinger said this was the first time he’s had to get involved with a matter such as this.

The motion carried 6-3, with Ogrodnick, Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski and Ward 1 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp voting against.

Dionne told the Herald Friday that these sorts of complaints often land on his desk.

He cited one he received from an older couple who had to constantly clean dirt and dust from their ducts and pieces of wood, shingles and plastic blown into their yard from an adjacent project. He said in other cases, mud tracked across sidewalks and streets turns to dirt and dust clogging up neighbouring windows.

“They told me, ‘we shouldn’t have to clean that up,’” Dionne recalled. “I said I agree 100 per cent.”

Dionne said the policy would help explain to contractors that the city wants them to be better neighbours.

“I’m pleased we’re going to do something to educate people. I’m going to call it the good neighbour policy. It’s sad that we have to give good neighbour lessons,” he said.

“It’s something I’m pleased we’re going to solve.”

The policy will come back to a future committee meeting for further discussion.