‘An honest mistake’: house in Steinbach built too close to neighbour allowed to stay

A home in Steinbach that was built too close to a neighbour is allowed to stay where it is, after city council said the builder made an ‘honest mistake.’

The issue revolves around a house on Murano Cove in Steinbach. In a previous Steinbach city council meeting in early August, the builder of the house, Harry Pankraz, told council he only realized the error while doing the final landscaping on the home.

He said the corner of the house’s front porch is now sitting two feet from the property line; however Steinbach bylaws require a four-foot space between a house and the property line.

He said the initial plans did not have the front porch on them, and said nobody checked during the approval process whether it was included in the measurements.

Pankraz had applied for a variance from the city to allow the house to remain where it is. However, Paul Boxhorn, who owns the neighbouring house, objected to the application.

“I am not okay with it. I invested almost half a million dollars into my house. (This) ruins the curb appeal of my house. It devalues my house,” he told city council during a meeting on Aug. 2.

It’s not just curb appeal he was concerned about. He told council he fears if the house is allowed to stay where it is, it could impact fire safety and fire insurance. Boxhorn said with the two houses being too close together, he worries a potential fire would spread more easily, which could lead to an increase in his fire insurance.

A report submitted to city councillors on Tuesday said city administration was not aware of any previous case in the city where insurance was impacted by a variance request.

“It is unfortunate that the builder did not pay more attention to the survey or the plan drawing. I’m not going to give any excuses for the builder why he did that – an oversight, whatever – I’m not going there,” said Coun. Jake Hiebert during the council meeting Tuesday.

“But what I do hope at the end of all this is that this is sort of a situation between the builder of number 18 and the owners of 14, but I hope somehow it won’t be an issue between the two neighbours.”

Pankraz previously told council if the variance is rejected, the house would require a ‘total structural change.’

Steinbach Mayor Earl Funk said he was in support of approving the variance.

“I think in this case, it was just an honest mistake,” he said. “I do hope too that we will be able to get past this in the neighbourhood and this will work out well.”

Council voted in favour of allowing the variance Tuesday evening.

Pankraz declined a request for comment from CTV News. 

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