Infill Doesn’t Have to Be a Dirty Word

Infill Doesn’t Have to Be a Dirty Word

In short: 

  • Little regulation is currently in place around aspects of infill development, specifically digging and trenching
  • Digging and trenching can cause costly damage to neighbouring plots if not properly handled, and these issues may disproportionately fall on the inhabitants of neighbouring residences
  • The way forward is to better define regulations around digging and trenching, and for the city to provide tools for neighbours of infill properties to better resolve disputes

I love meeting new neighbours. 

There’s something so exciting about the prospect of what they’ll bring to the community. Maybe they’ll head a community Facebook swap group where people can trade old household items they aren’t using anymore. Maybe they’ll become a key member of the community league and bring energy in organizing fundraising for playgrounds. Or maybe they’ll just bring a bit of pizzazz to that house on the corner every Halloween, to the point where it becomes a must-stop for trick or treaters. 

In my mind, this is what infill should feel like — it’s an amazing opportunity to re-energize old neighbourhoods by pumping fresh blood and business into older quarters that could use some revitalization. It also helps to centralize the city and fight urban sprawl, cutting down on vehicle traffic, reducing our daily carbon footprint. 

We’re seeing a lot of infill across Ward Métis’ gorgeous historic neighbourhoods,. But for the good it brings, we’ve all heard stories of how developers don’t always make for the best neighbours. And certain development processes could certainly be handled better — especially when they’re as simple as digging and trenching. 

Digging and trenching affect neighbouring plots in a myriad of ways. They can cause flooding, create cracks in the exterior and interior of the house, create leveling issues in the floors and change the angles of door and window frames so they can’t properly close. 

However, did you know that while inspections are done on almost every other component of infill construction, inspections involving excavation and trenching aren’t mandated? The only requirements are making sure that utility and water lines have been identified to avoid damage. Otherwise, developers are simply recommended to seek professional advice before excavating (you can find this on page 26 of the City of Edmonton’s Residential Construction Guide).

And while the city has currently put forward a most welcome effort to engage the public on these issues, such as with the City of Edmonton Infill Roadmap from 2018, it did little to address the impacts to neighbouring properties and developments. The Neighbours of Infill Survey Report conducted in 2020 showed that nearly 80% of respondents found that infill development caused damage or other impacts to their property, with drainage and trenching being a main factor in the damage. And nearly 70% found that their issues were not satisfactorily resolved. This has to change. 

Having looked into the issue, and seeing what other cities such as Toronto and Vancouver have done in response to similar problems, I believe there are three concrete solutions to this problem: 

  1. Introducing further inspection requirements around excavation and trenching so the responsibility of keeping neighbouring plots safe falls to the developers, not the inhabitants. Most specifically, an inspection after excavation is complete. 
  2. That the City of Edmonton creates a dedicated infill enforcement team, similar to what is seen in cities like Toronto, who have strict measures to keep issues like this from happening. This would involve proper training around zoning, examination processes to test knowledge, and possibly expanding necessary staffing resources around municipal development. 
  3. That we create an effective way for those who do encounter issues to communicate with their local government to get these issues resolved. This would most likely involve creating a digital platform that is easy to find and navigate where Edmontonians could lodge complaints, along with producing easy-to-understand materials around the rights of neighbours, and the responsibilities of developers. 

Given my past experience with community development — sitting on the board of my community league, serving on the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, helping revitalize Giovanni Caboto Park, and currently co-chairing the MMIP park project on Alberta Avenue — I know how important it is to integrate the voices of the public into the development of a neighbourhood. 

Infill shouldn’t be a dirty word in Ward Métis. And from my experience living in this community for 30 years, I know the Ward is filled with fantastically friendly neighbours who leap at the opportunity to welcome new people into our community. 

Let’s build a better community together. Please donate to my campaign, or come out and volunteer, and we’ll make sure that the first introduction we make to our new neighbours is as friendly and exciting as possible.