Erin Ridge residents bring school site concerns to council
Motions postponed to Aug. 26 to allow other side time to respond
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013 06:00 am
A packed gallery of Erin Ridge residents attended the city council meeting Monday night to express their displeasure over the idea a regional junior/senior francophone high school is to be built in Eldorado Park.
“Using this site as a school does not in any way benefit our community, quite the reverse, it is actually detrimental to our community,” said resident Stephen Raven.
Raven and eight other residents spoke on behalf of the angry members of their community, raising a laundry list of concerns. So many people were sitting in the public gallery some had to be asked to watch the proceedings on a television outside the council chambers. In the end, a series of motions brought to the floor by Coun. Malcolm Parker were postponed until Aug. 26 to allow the school board and francophone community to offer their views.
First on many of the residents’ lists was a concern over traffic. Already upset over parking and congestion from the staff of Sturgeon Community Hospital parking on the residential roads, traffic from students driving and parking, as well as congestion caused by several out-of-town buses coming in, were raised.
“The roads were not designed for this,” said John-Paul Zonneveld.
Other concerns included the fact that it’s a regional school, not for local students, and that the site is too small. While many residents had been aware of a school site designated for Eldorado in the Area Structure Plan, they believed it was for an elementary or junior high school.
Suggestions from the residents included moving the new elementary school destined for Erin Ridge North to the Kingswood site, and putting the francophone high school in the Erin Ridge North site instead. They also suggested putting both the elementary school and the francophone high school on the Erin Ride North site or swapping with the Catholic school board for access to a site in Oakmont.
“If it is too late to act then city council has not been doing its job,” Laurine Sanderson said.
Council made several information requests to city staff. Coun. Cathy Heron asked for a list of amendments to the Erin Ridge Area Structure Plan, especially with regards to the school type slated for Eldorado. Mayor Nolan Crouse asked for a legal opinion that could be made public about the potential use of the Kingswood site.
Heron also asked if there was enough room at the Erin Ridge North site to accommodate both schools. City manager Patrick Draper said even if some facilities were combined it wasn’t likely to fit both schools and still leave parkland for residents.
In response to council questions, Draper told council the francophone high school would have about half the student population of an elementary school, that the public school board wanted an elementary school where the demand is, in Erin Ridge North, that a traffic and parking study would be undertaken in the area, and that expropriating the Kingswood site would likely take too long. He said the provincial government has an “aggressive” platform for building new schools and the two new ones to be located in St. Albert are destined to be part of a bundled request for proposal for contractors to build several new schools for the region. If there isn’t a site available when the RFP goes out, likely in the fall, St. Albert could lose priority for getting a school.
“I would put the risk at very high,” Draper said when asked by Coun. Len Bracko what the risk of losing a school is if a site isn’t made available soon.
Parker asked if changing the site allocation is a decision for the city or the school board.
Draper explained the public, Catholic and francophone school boards and the city entered into an agreement in 2004, forming a committee, and delegated the authority to approve school sites for specific school projects to that committee.
“To reverse that, to change the outcome if that was council’s intent, would require a renegotiation of that agreement between city council and the three school (boards),” Draper said.
Later in the meeting Parker went to make several motions pertaining to a meeting with the school site allocation committee to address the Erin Ridge residents’ concerns and talk about alternative sites. Initially council waived the requirement for 13 days of notice for a motion, however, the motions ended up delayed until Aug. 26.
“We really only heard from one side of the debate,” Counc. Wes Brodhead said. He initially suggested the matter be delayed until Sept. 3, but accepted a friendly amendment from Bracko to Aug. 26.
The motion to delay proceedings on Parker’s motions was passed with Parker and Heron voting against. Crouse, Bracko, Brodhead and Coun. Cam MacKay voted in favour of the motion. Coun. Roger Lemieux was absent.