R.M. OF WEST ST. PAUL – Residents living in a suburban neighbourhood in the R.M. of West St. Paul are voicing their concerns over a landowner’s request to rezone a piece of land to make way for new housing.

Around 40 homeowners on River Springs Drive are concerned a grove of old oak trees could end up on the chopping block if the application's approved.

The residents are also concerned the rezoning could pave the way for smaller and narrower lots, which they said won’t fall in line with the existing character of the neighbourhood.

River Springs Residents Committee spokesperson Henry Bakker said if approved, the residential lots wouldn’t meet requirements set out in the existing planning objectives and policy for the R.M of West St. Paul.

Increased traffic and parking are among the residents’ main concerns.

“We’re not opposed to development, we welcome it in fact, but the Middlechurch Secondary Plan – which is a document that governs development in this area -- stipulates that any infill development… must be in the same character as the existing development,” said Bakker. “We’re expecting to see lots the same size as ours and we’re not expecting to see our forest removed.”

Bakker said the group hired an arborist who estimates some of the oak trees in the forest could be more than 200 years old.

“We’re fighting to protect this,” said Bakker.

The landowner and developer, Terracon, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

R.M. of West St. Paul council will learn more about the project from the developer at a public hearing on the matter scheduled for Dec.12. Residents will also be able to voice support or opposition.

“Terracon is coming forward to council requesting a rezoning,” said R.M. of West St. Paul Mayor Cheryl Christian. “So we’re not sure on the number of houses that they’re proposing. What they’re wanting to have is the zoning change from agricultural to residential to allow homes.

“Right now with this being an open application there’s not much we can talk about – we’re a quasi-judicial body as council and when the application comes before us as council then residents have the opportunity to speak in support or speak against and share their concerns.”

Christian said the developer’s plan is currently before the Red River Planning District, which will prepare a report prior to the next council meeting, including a recommendation on whether it’s consistent with development plans for the area.

“Then council reviews that information as well as hearing from residents before making a final decision,” said Christian. “We get the report from Red River Planning the same time as residents, it’s posted up on the Red River Planning District site, it’s made available for us before the meeting.

“We understand they have lots of concerns and we welcome them to attend that meeting and share their concerns.”