Second strike by town for Jones Estate development could result in legal action

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It’s been six long years since Marcia Johnston first became involved with the 4.15-acre site of undeveloped GlenEagles lands known as the ‘Jones Estate.’

As titleholder since 2013 on behalf of the nine charitable recipients of the late Muriel Evelyn Jones’s estate, who died in 2007, Johnston has sought to rezone the parcel twice for residential development from its current urban reserve designation.

The property was named after the sisters Eileen Grace and Muriel Evelyn Jones, who lived in the single home on the site until their respective deaths; Eileen predeceased her sister several years earlier. The home has since been torn down.

Johnston learned yesterday morning that her request for council’s reconsideration of her latest application, which was struck down at first reading at the April 24 council meeting, would not be granted.

“It just seems so unfair – almost unprecedented, ” said Johnston, who is a senior corporate lawyer, and maintains that due process was followed in both applications and that by striking down the application at first reading, council was in contravention of its own policies.

“I thought they had turned it down for the wrong reasons – the application met all their legal requirements. ”

Johnston, whose latest application for 16 single family units with R-1 zoning, was made in conjunction with Hazkar Developments.

She said she will consult with her co-applicant as to whether or not a new application will be submitted or whether legal action would follow.

“Hazkar really wants to develop this land but has to consider duplicating their expenses that they have already paid. ”

As far as Johnston is concerned, the area residents were misinformed by Ecco, the former developer of GlenEagles, and led to believe the Jones Estate was never to be developed on.

Mayor Ivan Brooker – who moved to strike down the first application for 24 multi-family units with R-3 zoning under Libco Holdings Ltd. last fall based on not wanting to increase densities in that neighbourhood – was not able to comment at present, due to the potential legal issues that could ensue.

“We are overjoyed to see council defeat this application, ” said Uwe Nystrom following the decision last fall to quash the first application. Nystrom is a five-year resident of the Vistas of GlenEagles and condo board chair.

“Our biggest issue was the road, ” he said, explaining that no sidewalk, the narrowness of the road and commercial (construction) traffic all equate to “a recipe for disaster. ”

Johnston explained that the issue over land access was mishandled between Alberta Transportation and the former developer, Echo, who was rumoured to have had a poor relationship with the former Jones sisters who resided on the land.

Access has since been granted by the province.

Brian Pynn, president of the GlenEagles Community Association, said that the board maintains their position that they are seeking a moratorium on future development proposals on the Jones Estate and would favour working with the town and the applicant and looking at turning the land into some type of environmental reserve.

Johnston’s letter requesting reconsideration outlined stated that she “was stunned by the virtually unprecedented action by a majority of town council in not even allowing the proposed bylaw to proceed to a public hearing. ”

Her letter goes on to state that the co-applicant Hazkar had “gone above and beyond ” to address the plethora of concerns raised by surrounding GlenEagles condo boards – namely the Vistas, Estates, Villas and GlenHaven, including an open house, one-on-one meetings and geotechnical and engineering consultation reports that indicate the Jones Land had “not just adequate but superior slope stability. ”

Johnston showed the Eagle the series of maps contained in the GlenEagles Area Structure Plan (ASP) – where the first three maps clearly show that the Jones Land was not part of the ASP; subsequent maps appear to incorporate the land into the ASP, which appears to be an oversight.

The Municipal Development Plan does not include the Jones Land in the ASP and flags the parcel of land as intended for residential development.

She maintains that “a small but highly vociferous group who reject any development on this private land have held sway over council rather than its own policies and legal requirements. ”

According to Drew Hyndman, senior manager of development services for the town, next steps would include the applicant filing a new application and that stakeholder engagement is encouraged with any application.

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Lindsay Seewalt

Lindsay is a senior Eagle reporter who has transformed her penchant for storytelling into the craft of writing. She has a knack for getting the scoop on stories and is a strong interviewer. The U of C and MRU English/Journalism graduate is committed to telling every story through a new lens, from a fresh perspective. Currently, her focus is on news and politics reporting, including town hall. She has a passion for providing a platform for underdogs, grassroots movements and those who have the courage to put themselves out there. She bases the strength of her stories on the depth of her connection with her interviewee, which is best done over too much coffee.