Residents of Kirkland Drive, one of the streets in Kingswood that radiates out from a proposed park and school site say they have no problems with a high school being built on-site and don’t believe teenagers make bad neighbours.
Some do, however, question the motives of the developer – Canterra – in its ongoing fight with city hall to resist any attempts to build a high school by any district on the site.
“A school would be nice, and a high school, I don’t think it is a big deal,” said Mike Gerencser, who has lived on the corner of Kirkland and Kingswood Boulevard for five years. “It would bring a lot more traffic to the area. That would be my only concern.”
On Monday council passed a motion asking the city’s subdivision approval body to not approve any further developments from Canterra until the developer hands over the land for the park promised in the original 1986 area structure plan (ASP). Canterra has said it won’t do so unless the city guarantees no high school will be built on the adjacent land.
In a story in Wednesday’s St. Albert Gazette, Canterra president Murray Brown was quote as saying of teenagers, “In our opinion, they don’t make for great neighbours.”
“There’s nothing wrong with teenagers,” said one Kirkland resident, who would only give her name as Angele. “I think they get a bad rap. You get 20 per cent who will do something and the other 80 will not.”
On Friday Brown said his quote was “seized upon” and created a bigger issue than it should have “to just serve a political purpose to try to embarrass us” while deflecting attention away from the real issue.
That issue, he said, is the city trying to force Canterra to turn over land so a high school could be built on the site originally designated for an elementary school.
“We are very opposed to the replacement of an elementary school with a high school on a site that’s too small for a high school and a location that’s totally inappropriate for a high school.”
There is no guarantee that if any of St. Albert’s three school districts were awarded a high school by the province that Kingswood would be selected as a site, according to general manager of planning and engineering Curtis Cundy. In his Monday presentation to council, Cundy said Erin Ridge, Erin Ridge North and Oakmont all have “shovel-ready” land, compared to the Kingswood site, which is still considered farmland.
But Rebecca Patterson, who moved to St. Albert over the summer with her family from Ottawa, would be very interested in seeing a small high school for the francophone district built on site. The Greater North Central Francophone Education Region has made no secret of its wish to build a high school. Its students currently attend École Alexandre-Taché, which is located in the old part of Youville Home.
Patterson said moving her teenagers out of a French school in Ottawa and into French immersion instead was a difficult decision. Having a high school nearby would be beneficial.
“I would not have an issue with suburban high school students,” said the Canadian Forces member. “The inner city students in Ottawa, you know what? They do their things but it’s not out of control.”
Mayor Nolan Crouse, who favours the idea of building a francophone high school there, said the city has not made any decision on where any future high school should go. Such a decision, if there was funding for a new high school in St. Albert, would be up to the city’s site selection committee.
“I have gone on record with anyone and everyone that this is my personal preference and councillors have inferred it but no city council motion yet,” Crouse wrote in an email.
Canterra believes a high school would take up so much land, it would leave little for development of a park. It also believes most students would drive to school, which would lead to traffic and parking problems.
Brown said the residents who are pushing for a park would discover there would be no room left for one if a high school is built, along with the “massive parking lot” that high schools require.
Brown said Canterra has been developing areas of St. Albert for 22 years and “a huge commitment we make to those communities is everyone who acquired lots know what the future would look like.”
The future of Kingswood, he said, according to the city’s master plan, was for an elementary school and a park with a playground, soccer and ball fields.
“So there is a lot of rationale for our position … and we are not going to compromise any aspect of the community.”