Residents living along Myrtle Avenue, near Hillside Shopping Centre, are advocating for a strip of land that’s acted as a buffering greenspace between their commercial neighbours for over 30 years.
The strip of land is the back nine metres of property where merchants such as Romeo’s and McDonald’s operate, facing Hillside Avenue. The space runs approximately 160 metres long, and was once the subject of a “gentleman’s agreement” to keep it green with grasses and shrubs.
In 1984, this agreement was converted into an official zoning bylaw, after neighbours raised alarm when Romeo’s installed a driveway. The driveway remained the only interruption into the greenspace until June.
Now, residents are upset over a six-foot tall fence that was introduced to about 30 metres of the space, closing off the greenspace and turning it into a gravel-covered lot that neighbours have been told will eventually be used for a daycare.
|A fence has been built along the green space of Myrtle Avenue. File contributed)|
Jack Showers has lived on Myrtle Avenue for 22 years, in the same house his grandparents bought in 1948. He’s not necessarily upset about the daycare, but more so about the potential problems the changes could initiate.
“The space keeps this street residential, and what we’re worried about is, what else will be allowed?” Showers said. “Can fences be put up all the way? It’s been a residential street that had a nice, quiet feel, but this seems like the beginning of turning into the back lane of these businesses.”
Showers and his neighbours approached City staff about the issue and have dug into the archives to find documents relating to the zoning change (from C1 to C1-L, for commercial landscape district), but he said staff were not willing to budge.
“We were basically told that this is how it is, and no one was going to change their mind.”
In an emailed statement, Jonathan Tinney, director of sustainable planning and community development, said the staff acted accordingly.
“This matter, including the process and interpretation applied, was reviewed thoroughly within the organization and it was determined that a daycare use is permitted under the applicable zoning, and that the proposed landscaping changes, including construction of a fence, were consistent with the design guidelines,” he wrote.
“Given this, the property owner was entitled to the development permit that authorizes these changes.”
Showers and five other people spoke at council’s meeting on Thursday aiming to alert their elected officials of what they considered a “misinterpretation of the going regulations by the staff.”
While Tinney believes the fence was built within the guidelines, Showers remains unconvinced.
“Green space is important to make a residential area livable; it’s not green space if it’s behind a fence,” he said. “We’ve lost that public area.”