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Eldorado Park changes nearing finish line

Council passes two of three required readings of redistricting bylaws

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 05:15 pm

SPEAK UP – Another full house greeted city councillors at city hall during a public meeting on Tuesday regarding the francophone school site at Eldorado Park.
SPEAK UP – Another full house greeted city councillors at city hall during a public meeting on Tuesday regarding the francophone school site at Eldorado Park.
CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

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The redistricting of Eldorado Park could pass next week after the first two readings of both related bylaws were passed Tuesday night.

Council was stopped short of passing the needed amendment to the Erin Ridge area structure plan (ASP) and the park redistricting after failing to get unanimous consent from council to do all three readings in one meeting.

The third reading of both bylaws will take place at the next council meeting. The bylaws will allow the new francophone high school to be placed anywhere on the park instead of limiting it to the original 2.99-acre site in the northeast corner.

Other options on the table would increase the site size by about half an acre and include a bus loop, as well as a likely move to the west side of the park so the frontage is along Erin Ridge Drive instead of Eldorado Drive.

The votes on the bylaws, as well as two related motions from members of council, came after a marathon public hearing session where about 25 different speakers addressed council and overflow space was provided to accommodate the packed gallery.

“I wish there was a perfect solution. The reality of life for council is there rarely is a perfect solution,” said Coun. Wes Brodhead while arguing in favour of one of the bylaws. “Sometimes we have to make decisions that some people aren’t happy with.”

Speakers ranged from representatives of the francophone school board to residents of Erin Ridge to students to an owner of a busing company entreating council to make sure there was a bus lane.

Several Erin Ridge residents appealed to council over potential loss of green space if the entire site was changed to a public and private service designation from park district. They asked council to keep the school on the original parcel and the original size, though some still argued the school doesn’t belong on the site.

“I don’t think you want to be known as the anti-green council,” said Don Scott.

Francophone students, parents and board members spoke in favour of moving the school to the west side of the park.

“This public hearing is strictly about redistricting. To decide where on the site the school can be built. Yet there are still some who oppose the very construction of the school,” said Lise Roy-Maxwell, part of the parent council for École Alexandre-Taché. She noted the decision that the school was coming was made last summer “and that’s not going to change.”

The school could be limited to 2.99 acres on either of the proposed sites – on the northeast corner, putting the traffic along Eldorado Drive, or the west location recommended by the consultants, which puts the frontage along Erin Ridge Drive.

However, the 2.99 acres wouldn’t be big enough for a bus drop-off lane, council was told. That seemed to sway the majority of council in voting against a motion from Coun. Cam MacKay that would have required the school site to remain at 2.99 acres no matter where it’s placed in the park.

MacKay said in his research he hadn’t found many schools with a pull-in bus lane and noted he’s been repeatedly told in the past that 2.99 acres would be enough.

But only he and Coun. Sheena Hughes were in favour of the motion, which was defeated by a majority vote.

Coun. Cathy Heron made a motion that would result in the remainder of Eldorado Park being redistricted back to park after the school parcel has been subdivided. That motion was passed unanimously.

Many speakers during the evening referenced recently-released minutes from the school site allocation committee meetings that mentioned as early as late June the potential need for the school to move to the west side of the park.

Resident speakers pointed out that was well before the traffic study, the draft of which was completed in November, was done or even started. The contents of the traffic study have been referenced as evidence for moving the school.

Hughes offered city manager Patrick Draper a chance to address the minutes as Draper is the city’s representative on that committee.

Draper said it was a consideration of options, not definite plans, and that after looking at the site it was a fair question to ask if the school might need to move to elsewhere in the park.

“It was a what-if scenario,” Draper said.

When it came down to voting on the two bylaws before council – an area structure plan amendment and a land use bylaw amendment – safety was at the heart of the discussion.

“I would give up half an acre of park space in my own neighbourhood if it meant that we ensure pedestrian and student safety,” said Coun. Gilles Prefontaine during debate over the land use bylaw amendment to redistrict the land designation.

Hughes said she was against unanimous consent because she wanted more time to think about the ASP amendment. She and MacKay were against giving unanimous consent to proceed to third reading.

Mayor Nolan Crouse did take a moment to make some comments during the second reading of the redistricting bylaw, which couldn’t proceed to third reading as the ASP amendment needs to happen first.

“What’s the doom and gloom?” he asked council.

The mayor pointed out that St. Albert will have a francophone education system that goes the full gambit from kindergarten to Grade 12.

“We have all of these wonderful, wonderful First World problems we’re dealing with,” Crouse said.

Prior to the continuation of the public hearing, council received the final draft of the Erin Ridge traffic impact analysis and parking study for information. The report included updated traffic numbers and updated busing scenarios along with other updates, and is available online at www.stalbert.ca/new-schools.


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