After years of trucking in fill at his property of 5813 West Saanich Rd., Saanich council rejected Leon Rosteski’s request for a height variance of 11.2 metres for a new house building permit.
Rosteski has been intentionally filling in the land on a section of the property, estimated to be more than 25,000 cubic metres, always with a plan of building a house on top of it. But on Monday night council unanimously supported staff’s recommendation against the variance, which is 37 feet.
One problem that irked neighbours was the years of noise as the mound was constructed. But the main issue is that the mound of fill is considered unnatural grade, and the height for the house is to be measured from the bottom of the mound where it is natural grade.
“Normally variances are only a couple of feet, this is quite a lot more,” said Coun. Vicki Sanders.
It was a sentiment echoed by most of council.
“I can see the rationale in supporting a variance for an even grade, but to construct nearly 40 feet, and then put house on top of it for a view is not compelling rationale,” said Coun. Dean Murdock.
While defending his application in front of council on Monday, Rosteski claimed he was never told the fill would be a hindrance, though Saanich maintained it was evident he would need a variance at the time of the application.
Rosteski also claimed the controversy wasn’t around the height variance, it was about the mound of fill the house would be sitting on.
“There are many houses 37 feet high in Saanich,” he said.
The growing mound of earth caught the attention of neighbours back in 2012, when a group of residents complained to Saanich council.
Back then, Rosteski told the News he was filling the yard “to a height where I get a view, and then I’m going to build [a house] on top of it.”
And on Monday, Rosteski suggested staff should have told him years ago he would have problems acquiring a building permit.
Murdock said he believes staff would have likely been clear, at the very least, that a variance would be needed if Rosteski had mentioned he planned to build on the mound, and that planning and engineering staff do not know which way council will decide.
“I lament the owner who chased his dream of building a hill in his yard and building a home on top of it but I have to support [staff] that this variance is too much,” said Coun. Fred Haynes.
Rosteski’s legal representation claimed 14 letters in support plus as many as 17 more that were not against the variance.
A few neighbours spoke against the property though Jeff Shaw, the vice-chair of the Prospect Lake Community Association, spoke in favour of it.
Rosteski was legally permitted to add fill to the property. He lives in a 2001-built home on the property that was once a barn. Saanich amended its fill bylaw in 2012 while Rosteski was working with the municipality.
Rosteski said most of the fill came from the Capital Regional District’s McTavish Reservoir replacement project in North Saanich.
As it stands, the mound can be removed if Rosteski wishes, though he’ll need a permit for removal.
– With files from Kyle Slavin