City council is revisiting the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay (MNO) document, which went to a public hearing at city council’s urban planning committee on Aug. 31.

The MNO is a planning document governing the development of residential properties in central neighbourhoods of Edmonton generally built before the 1980s. It includes regulations that prescribe minimum setbacks, landscaping, and sizes and shapes of infill construction.

While this document regulates a collection of seemingly minor things, collectively they create a robust, prescriptive solution to what is and is not allowed in mature neighbourhoods. The document is being reviewed as a means of resolving a number of issues that have surrounded infill construction in recent years. It would seek to end barren walls facing the street and would ensure landscaping includes a minimum number of shrubs and trees.

At the heart of this exchange is the ability of community leagues to oppose development that does not fit the existing land uses. The revised MNO will likely broaden the permissible uses of residential properties throughout the city and reduce the types of discretionary uses of these properties. This will reduce the influence of the leagues on the development process and provide more certainty to infill developers as to what is and is not allowed.

Opposition to development is one of the few real “powers” that has been devolved to the leagues, and the revised MNO will reduce the influence they can wield in the political sphere. Essentially, without the variances required on most infill developments and their associated Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) hearings, community leagues become a social club with political clout only coming from their ability to mobilize their communities rather than gaining clout from a legal and administrative capacity.

At the Aug. 31 hearing, submissions were heard from a wide range of stakeholders. Representatives from several community leagues, construction and development companies, and concerned homeowners provided insight as to what they would like changed in the MNO.

Developers and construction companies focused on ensuring that there will be consistent permitting, with clearly stated rules for what is and is not allowed. This change would allow them to communicate expectations clearly to their clients with respect to timelines and with reduced intervention from the city in developments which are clearly inside the regulations.  

Matt Crowley of Ottewell Community League said better communication is required from development officers and he asked that rationale be included when decisions are made. He also said there are privacy concerns with two and three storey buildings in neighbourhoods primarily comprised of bungalows.

Mayor Don Iveson countered that while the privacy concerns were valid, density of those neighbourhoods do not meet the density targets set out by the city. Iveson noted that new suburbs are double the density of Ottewell.

The MNO was sent back to administration for review and amendment, and will return to city council in the fall for debate. Look for these proposed changes through or through an open house.

Featured Image: Front driveways are generally not allowed in mature neighbourhoods. | Karen Mykietka