Braeside parkland should not be for sale or swap

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Re: Gazette article, Aug. 9, 2017; “Braeside condo developer wants to help
improve neighbourhood.”

As longtime residents of St Albert, we are voicing our strong opposition to this proposed rezoning and land swap application that is currently in front of St Albert’s city council.

Giving a private investor an opportunity to purchase public parkland by offering land that is considerably less valuable as a proposed exchange or swap allows a private investor to line his own private pockets at the expense of tax-paying public. This is wrong. Not only does this private investor benefit by having more land to expand his proposed construction along Sturgeon Road, but he also benefits by having the exchanged land by the river valley to become his own private backyard. Who will utilize this backyard if not the tenants of the large condo structure? This would not be considered a safe place to play for any neighbourhood children in the shadows of a tall building hidden in the trees along the river valley as proposed by the developer.

The value of the public parkland along Sturgeon Road is considerably more than the value of the land below the private owner’s property. The value of the trees that is mentioned in the article is a red herring and is irrelevant in this conversation as the entire river valley is filled with trees that the city should be looking at replacing. Where is the city’s plan for doing this? While our children were growing up, they used the public parkland along Sturgeon Road quite extensively. When they were little, they used the sides of the hill for sledding and tobogganing. As they grew, the park became a favourite place to play soccer as well as to set up nets for both volleyball and badminton with their friends. It was considered a safe place to play in the neighborhood. It should continue to be accessible by all taxpayers  as public parkland.

City council has already approved a significant amount of St Albert land for considerable high-density building development. Multiple high-density buildings have already been created close to Costco, by Lacombe Park, by Grandin – just to name a few areas. Botanica is a huge complex already being built along the river valley as well as the huge Careadon Village Inglewood senior housing close to Canadian Tire. Altura apartments and the Tenor condos are also already built. Do we need yet another huge complex along our river valley? By creating tunnels of concrete buildings along our river valley trails, we take away natural sunlight that the trees and foliage require to grow and flourish. Our St. Albert river valley is in need of protection, not further construction. Should city council not be spending time and considerable effort to create a long-term vision for the river valley in order to preserve the natural beauty of that which we currently have?

Parkland should be protected, safeguarded, and available for all public to enjoy and to utilize. It should not be available for purchase or swap to a private investor.

Jeff and Lydia Hodgson, St. Albert

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