Edmontonians may have the option to subdivide lots if a pilot project is successful with three properties in Alberta Avenue, Queen Mary Park, and Grovenor.

The pilot aims to look at the feasibility of subdividing a residential lot so a house and a garden suite have separate titles and examines how subdivision looks from a technical and zoning perspective. It’s called the Flag-Shaped Lot pilot because, according to Stuart Carlyle, city planner for core and mature communities, “Once the garden suite is subdivided, the remnant lot looks like a flag.”

Due to the current zoning bylaw, homeowners can only rent garden suites on their lot, but if that lot could be subdivided, they could sell the subdivided land and the suite. Should this pilot be successful, this option would be available to whoever owns the land, be it homeowner or developer.

“It’s a significant amount of money that can go to the homeowner,” said Carlyle.

Eugene Dening is the co-owner of the Alberta Avenue property on 117 Avenue and 94 Street. Dening, an architect, had already built a 510-square-foot garden suite on his property for rental purposes before he applied for the pilot.

Dening lives in the house, while a friend rents the garden suite. Dening said that if the pilot is successful, his plan is to eventually subdivide.

“I want to potentially sell the house and buy the suite,” he said, explaining that garden suites are affordable. He built his for $115,000. “It’s way lower than anything else in the area. Less maintenance. You have your own front door and yard. It opens up a lot of ownership potential for people who are otherwise out of the market. It gives a lot of flexibility in terms of ownership.”

Owning a garden suite could be appealing for the right person.

“Some people are looking to downsize and looking to live in a mature neighbourhood,” said Carlyle. “It’s difficult for first-time owners to purchase a home. A garden suite would go for much less than a single-family home.”

He thinks subdivision would be positive for the neighbourhood.

“We now have a front door on the alley. It’s reduced dumping and loitering around there. If you put a house on the alley and a front door, it changes the character of the alley, making it a safer place. [There’s] eyes on the street,” he said.

Dening’s neighbour, Gérard Forget, has reservations about the pilot. He explained subdivision could negatively affect the values of properties and discourage people from buying them.

“What about adjacent neighbourhoods? They will become undesirable and attract rentals,” he added.

He said such properties could become problematic rentals, the worst case scenario being a drug house. “I’m concerned we’re creating a ghetto.”

Forget said another issue is the lack of parking in the neighbourhood, due to the close proximity to businesses on 118 Avenue, 95 Street, and the nearby Norwood Golden Manor, a seniors centre. He also questioned where garbage pick-up would happen: in the alley, or at the street front.

Forget said he’s not opposed to increasing density, explaining that while subdividing lots might be a good idea in other areas of the city, it’s not a good idea in Alberta Avenue.

“If it was a normal neighbourhood like Terwillegar or Summerside, it might make sense,” he said. “[There’s] all the infrastructure for people with problems right within the block. It might attract a lot of problems. Does the city have the resources to look after additional problems in the neighbourhood?”

Knowing Forget has his doubts, Dening said, “We’d like to work with our neighbours, have everyone happy.”

At this point, city council still has to approve the property’s rezoning, due to take place this summer.

“After the subdivisions occur, a monitoring program would begin. The city will follow up with the landowners periodically to determine the level of activity and interest around these garden suites,” said Carlyle.

Give feedback at an open house at 6 pm on May 3 at Alberta Avenue Community League.

Featured Image: (Left to right): Mandy Dening (Eugene’s cousin), Eugene Dening (the co-owner), and Hans Cully (renter), sit in the garden suite. | Rebecca Lippiatt