Retaining wall contravening bylaw allowed to remain

Lisa Goudy
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The retaining wall at the home of 1301 Hochelaga St. W. that runs along 13th Avenue Northwest has been in place for 20 years. It is seen on the afternoon of June 17, 2014.

A retaining wall that’s been in place for 20 years, contrary to a city bylaw, is not going anywhere.

After receiving a complaint of the retaining wall extending to the curb at 1301 Hochelaga St. W., city administration checked with city engineers for buildings permits and with the parks and recreation department for boulevard approval. No such approval or permit was found.

As there is no city sidewalk at the location and it’s within the 1.5 meters of the curb, the bylaw enforcement office sent owner Ronald Pohl a letter instructing him to remove the structure. A city report also said the structure prevents the passenger door of vehicles legally parking on 13th Avenue Northwest from opening.

Pohl appealed that letter at executive committee at Monday’s meeting.

“Why am I here?” he said at the meeting. “I’ve had this retaining wall on the boulevard for the last 20 years. I’ve never had a problem.”

However, Coun. Candis Kirkpatrick said she finds it similar to the issue of the fence at Grace Street and 10th Avenue Northwest that was contravening the bylaw last fall. Council voted to uphold the city order and have the family make the appropriate corrections, which have been made.

“I have difficulty disconnecting the two … The bylaw is in place for a reason,” said Kirkpatrick. “I think that if we do allow this to stay as it is, we are definitely setting a precedent in this particular case and would have difficulty arguing someone else to do the same.”

But Coun. Brian Swanson said he could remember what the yard looked like before the retaining wall was put in place.

“I have to commend the owner of this home because he has one of the nicer yards in town and has taken a great deal of effort to keep his yard looking nice,” said Swanson. “There would be no reason for anyone to park there unless they were visiting that home.”

He added over the course of 20 years, it has taken until now for a complaint to be registered.

Coun. Dawn Luhning said she was opposed to having the owners of the Grace Street home fix the fence.

“Here you have a citizen who pays their taxes. Their yards look beautiful,” she said. “These bylaws, I know they’re there for reasons that can be detriment to the community, detriment to the neighbourhood, but … it has been there for 20 years.”

Matt Noble, city manager, said the issue isn’t how beautiful the yard looks but the precedent it sets.

Kirkpatrick echoed similar sentiments. She said she’s seen many beautiful properties in the city and sometimes when a property is sold, the property isn’t beautiful anymore.

“To concentrate on the fact that this should be left the way it is because it is beautiful, I think that’s the wrong direction to come from,” said Kirkpatrick.

The majority of executive committee voted in favour of the motion, as moved by Swanson.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Geographic location: Grace Street, 10th Avenue Northwest

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Recent comments

  • Scott gabel
    June 18, 2014 - 00:29

    I find it a joke that the city only upholds the by laws when there is a complaint. They shouldn't be relying on on complaints as they are way more breakers of by laws and unfair to those who get complaints vs those that don't. All should be treated the same by someone driving around looking for these problems. I for one had a complaint about my trailer being parked in front of my parents house as working on their house in my free time yet I have seen trailers unhitched parked all over the place that have been sitting there a long time. It is time that either all get enforced or get rid of some of these stupid by laws