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Dunvegan Gardens Appeal Meeting Leaves Both Parties Anticipating a Win

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7
Dunvegan Gardens Appeal Meeting Leaves Both Parties Anticipating a Win

Packed Crowd at the Dunvegan Gardens Appeal Board Meeting // Jaryn Vecchio - Harvard Broadcasting

Dunvegan Gardens will know its future in about a month.

A seven-year battle between Dunvegan, the RMWB and Residents of Draper took another step to finally coming to a conclusion.

Thursday night residents packed into council chambers, as both sides presented their arguments at an appeal board meeting to determine if a stop work order given out to the business would be upheld.

VP of Operations at Dunvegan Brad Friesen appealed the order and for the time being has been able to continue work.

He notes all his permits, including that for a greenhouse, were in fact approved by the municipality.

“They issued me permits back in 2006 and 2008, whether it’s a small “g” or a large “g” on greenhouse, to me, they knew what I wanted. To me, the fact that they didn’t give it to me is an error on their part,” said Friesen. “It would be nice if someday some of these guys took some credit or hits on the shoulders for things they’ve issued maybe they issued wrong.”

The RMWB argued that Dunvegan was operating with no development permits for a greenhouse while using their property for commercial landscaping.

“Don’t come to me ten years later and tell me what I don’t have what I applied for ten years ago,” said Friesen.

Among these claims were possible infractions for commercial landscaping materials stockpiling, the sale of goods, farm animals, a retaining wall, and a park.

The municipality and their work leading up to the appeal was called “offensive” by Robert Noce, the lawyer representing Dunvegan. He argues the only evidence they brought forward were pictures of the possible infractions, adding they should be upset at themselves for not doing more research, relying on questions towards Brad Friesen.

The two individuals who did an investigation at the site back in July of 2016, weren’t at the meeting, one no longer working with the RMWB and the second on leave, possibly stopping them from going in-depth on their evidence.

Andrew Thorne, a Draper resident who’s been in the battle since the beginning, spoke for the municipality. He argued the lack of permits for a garden centre stating they can only, legally, grow produce on the land.

He also argued the fact that his area, small holdings, is a residential area and the business can’t operate because the permits don’t allow it.

“To try and readdress the fact that this isn’t a residential district, I’m sorry but it is. There are no permitted uses in the small holdings district that allows anything close to what we have here other than a home occupation businesses.”

The Draper area, where Dunvegan Gardens is located, has two land use designations within its boundaries: Country Residential and Small Holdings. The intent of these designations is to provide a larger lot while maintaining a quiet, rural atmosphere.

Thorne also mentioned he believes Dunvegan is continuing to operate commercial landscaping even though they’ve been told to stop by the municipality.

“We’ve submitted over 1,800 photos of landscaping equipment coming and going. What we got is a company that decided to buy farmland and operate a commercial garden centre.”

During the meeting, around 15 residents, employees, and family of the Friesen’s took the time to speak on Dunvegan’s behalf.

Ruth Legge told Mix News Dunvegan is “all we got, we lost so much,” speaking about the Wildfire.

Other residents spoke on the importance the area has for children in the area, giving them a place to have fun and learn.

But the municipality continued to argue the business shouldn’t be running, without permits, just because they play a role in the community.

“We’ll let justice fall where justice falls and if they come down to that I have to leave, well I guess that’s what we will do, we’ll up and be gone,” added Friesen.

The appeal board will take up to 31 days before making their decision. Friesen says if the stop work order is upheld he will look to appeal to a higher court.

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