Opposition to Habitat about green space
Saturday, Aug 16, 2014 06:00 am
From your editorial “Habitat build positive” it is apparent that you still don’t get it. Akinsdale’s opposition to the Habitat project had nothing to do with Habitat itself but to the use of St. Albert’s parkland for major development.
Akinsdale especially had just cause to oppose such development. This wasn’t Akinsdale’s only loss. The land for the Akinsdale Arena was taken from the community’s municipal park land. This is allowed but it sure provides a good reason to try and preserve what is left. The Catholic school property was sold to a church with part being used for the Kinex Arena. These lands and the parkland provided to Habitat were all in the Akinsdale community south of Akins and Arbor. With the loss of these lands this south Akinsdale community lost about two-thirds of its green space. This isn’t acceptable.
Reference keeps being made to the fact that this land was owned by the public school division and it no longer required the property. The school division may have had title to the property but it hardly “owned” it. The property was provided by the city out of its own reserves when the school division failed to negotiate for school property with Akinsdale’s developer (Qualico). The city provided this property, along with the Elmer Gish property, to the school division for schools. It then sent notice to the school division that the city’s legal position was that the properties should be leased to the school division, however, if title to the properties was provided to the school division, then the properties would revert back to the city should they not be used for a school.
The reality is that the city paid $840,000 for property that it rightfully owned. When (former) mayor Richard Plain tried to protect the property from development, the school division insisted that the property be used for the benefit of the community. Unfortunately, Plain was defeated before the bylaw was passed, whereupon, the school division decided that perhaps the community wasn’t that important and decided to sell the property. I do not believe that any community in St. Albert fought harder to preserve itself than Akinsdale did. Over 600 names were collected on a petition from south Akinsdale requesting that the property remain a park. The response was 99 per cent in favour of the park. It is unfortunate that the petition wasn’t expanded to include the rest of St. Albert, I doubt that there would have been much of a difference.
Remember the fellow who attempted to start a petition in favour of Habitat on the property. I believe he was only able to collect two names. You are putting down an entire community for trying to protect itself, perhaps the entire city. Suggesting that Akinsdale is elitist is a joke right? Akinsdale was St. Albert’s highest density and most affordable community when it was developed and still remains near the top. Alfred Nicolai, president of Edmonton Habitat, stated that the average income required by the project’s residents would be about $50,000 per annum. There are lots of families in Akinsdale who would love to have this much income. The only thing that is elitist in Akinsdale is its property taxes.
The project is completed and there is nothing that can be done about it so we have to make the best of it and I believe that Akinsdale is doing so. You do yourself and Akinsdale an injustice when you continue to refer to the community as NIMBYs and an embarrassment. It was bad enough when the community was struggling to retain its integrity but to continue to bring it up years after the issue has been decided is just a cheap shot unworthy of the Gazette.
Dave Evans, St. Albert