Traffic main cause of Erin Ridge residents' concern over new school neighbour
Local residents say francophone high school deserves larger site
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 24, 2013 06:00 am
Current Erin Ridge Area Structure Plan school site wording
“The central school/park site location proposed by the 1986 ASP has been provided through the redistricting and subdivision process. Based on presently known school needs, the ASP area could support an Elementary/Junior High School and in this regard, a future school site has been provided in Eldorado Park."
Erin Ridge residents upset over a proposed school for Eldorado Park think the city could do better.
City hall could do better at communicating, representatives of the organized group said, they could do better at sticking to the area structure plan, and the francophone high school deserves a bigger, better site, which the group asserts is too small for a good facility.
“Our community also deserves better service from council,” said Laurine Sanderson.
Sanderson, J.P. Zonneveld and Bill Van Hoof spoke on behalf of the unofficial community group that has sprung up to bring attention to their concerns about a school being built in Eldorado Park.
The residents of Erin Ridge told council at the Aug. 19th council meeting that the already traffic-plagued area can’t withstand the additional stressor of a high school being added.
In addition, there are concerns that the high school wasn’t the type of school listed in the area structure plan. Sanderson, Van Hoof and Zonneveld said this is just the latest change, noting the hospital expansion and changes to the Citadel occurred as previous examples.
“It seems like (the city) only revisit (area structure plans) when it benefits them,” Sanderson said.
Zonneveld said between the hospital staff parking along Erin Ridge Drive and the busy traffic on residential streets used as a cut-through to get to the nearby retail stores, there are concerns for safety.
“The roads are incredibly busy,” Zonneveld said.
Zonneveld did say council asking the “other side” to come in and speak publicly was fair, but objected to the idea that there are different sides to this debate. He was passionate about the idea that the francophone students deserve a bigger, better site after fighting so long to get their own facility.
“Their kids won’t have the stuff they deserve,” Zonneveld said.
This isn’t about it being a regional school, or a francophone one, the trio said.
“It could be any school there, and we wouldn’t want it,” Van Hoof said. Zonneveld said for him personally, if the area traffic issues were somehow fixed, he might change his mind.
“If the problems were solved first, we would reconsider,” Zonneveld said.
Sanderson pointed out while there are only 143 students now, with the new facility and large catchment area it’s hoped enrolment will grow.
“Everything changes,” she said.
The Badger lands was now the group’s main suggestion for a switch. Some residents will likely be at the council meeting on Monday, they said, but weren’t sure what will happen next.
“We need to continue the conversation,” Van Hoof said.
Erin Ridge Area Structure Plan
The current Erin Ridge Area Structure Plan was created in 1996, repealing the 1986 version. There have been several amendments but the wording around the school site has remained fairly consistent.
“The central school/park site location proposed by the 1986 ASP has been provided through the redistricting and subdivision process. Based on presently known school needs, the ASP area could support an Elementary/Junior High School and in this regard, a future school site has been provided in Eldorado Park,” reads section 3.4, going on to list information about open space in the rest of that community.
This was a change from the repealed 1986 version, which read as follows:
“A combined separate elementary and junior high school site, 2.43 hectares (6 acres) in size, shall be provide in River Lot 32 in the central portion of the Plan area,” it says. A comparison of the most recent and 1986 map versions show the same lot of land is being addressed.
Carol Bergum, director of planning and development for the city, said some of the old area structure plans were very specific in assigning school types. That practice had to change as they moved forward, she said, because of the way the provincial government distributes new schools, which meant they had to have sites ready for any kind of school in case something was granted.
“We needed more flexibility in terms of the schools,” Bergum said. She noted the Erin Ridge plan reads it “could support” an elementary/junior high school.
“It’s not ‘it shall be,’” she said.
When it comes to amendments of area structure plans, she said public consultation policies are in place. The city’s Planning Primer, available online, notes area structure plan developments or amendments, citizens can watch for notices in the paper, information directly mailed to them or signs on the property.
Municipal responsibility to provide land
Alberta Infrastructure, tasked with organizing the construction of new schools throughout the province, said that the province is still deciding on the delivery models for the schools.
Cheryl Mackenzie, a spokesperson for Alberta Infrastructure, said that will probably be decided this fall.
She noted they do provide for parking lots when the school is built, though stall numbers are decided according to municipal bylaws. Whether or not students and staff will park in the lot or on the street is of concern to Erin Ridge residents, who already struggle with street parking around the hospital and at other times.
As for what would happen if, for some reason, St. Albert didn’t have a site to offer for one of its new schools, Mackenzie said she couldn’t speculate.
“We build the schools, we don’t find the land,” she said of their role.
Calls directed to Alberta Education were forwarded to Alberta Infrastructure.