A development variance permit request in Cumberland’s council is pointing out some challenges around the village’s alleyways when it comes to services like firefighting or snow-clearing.
At the last regular meeting of 2020, council was considering whether to deny the variance request because of the challenges posed by the alley for the property at 2720 Derwent Ave. The applicant had asked to vary the 1.5-m side-yard setback past the main building in order to permit the conversion of an existing accessory building into an accessory dwelling unit.
Staff had visited to look at firefighting access, which would happen from the front of the property. However, there are still issues around snow-clearing from the rear lane.
“The applicant has suggested that she be allowed to take responsibility over snow-clearing through an agreement with the village,” senior planner Karin Albert told council, though she added, “We felt we couldn’t take on agreements with private property owners.”
The staff recommendation was to deny the application. However, the applicant hoped the item could be referred to the village’s advisory planning commission (APC) in order to present her case and explore options for the variance. Albert said staff supports this option prior to council’s making a decision.
On the broader issue, Coun. Vickey Brown said she has noticed a trend toward putting up accessory dwellings in alleys.
“Whether we’re approving it or not, it’s happening,” she said. “I am concerned about that because some people are allowed and some aren’t.”
For the property in question, fire chief Mike Williamson said he had visited the site, and he agreed some of the development off of alleys is making access difficult for firefighting vehicles.
“It’s one thing to have a shed,” he said, adding, “These side properties are just too tight…. We need to make sure these areas are clear.”
Williamson said the department practises setting up from the street, though they would use an alley if available.
Some on council had questions about parking for such properties and snow removal. Some of the information such as parking, Albert told council, would typically come forward later through a full development permit application.
There was also some question about sending the matter to the APC.
“I’m actually pretty curious to see what the APC would say,” said Coun. Sean Sullivan.
Rather than deny the application, council passed Sullivan’s motion to refer the matter to the APC first.