City made huge mistake: writer

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Open letter to Mayor Crouse and council,

I refer to a letter to the residents of Erin Ridge from the city manager, Patrick Draper, dated 3 September regarding the decision to designate a portion of Eldorado Park for construction of a Regional Francophone Jr. and Sr. High School. The letter gives rise to a few questions and concerns regarding the process and future use of Eldorado and Erin Ridge Drives.

Planning and Allocation Process: I am concerned that the determination of jurisdiction and level of school to be erected on any designated site is left to the discretion of the School Site Allocation Committee and not to council. The School Site Allocation Committee consists of the city manager and the superintendents of the respective school boards. Compounding this anomaly is the fact that council previously terminated the planning committee which, if reconstituted, would have responsibility to steward planning activities such as amendments to Area Structure Plans (ASPs) and designation of sites for community facilities. A properly implemented planning process would ensure the maximum benefit, not solely to an interest group, but to the residents of St. Albert as a whole.

Procedural Process: I remain confused with respect to the legality of the current Erin Ridge ASP. I do question how the bylaw makes provision for a high school. I further question the process by which council could and did approve construction of a high school, when the residents were informed that the bylaw is legally binding and that any amendment, either for or against the current provisions, was not possible due to the length of time needed to proceed with the amendment process. If that is the case, I suggest that the School Site Allocation Committee exceeded their authority in designating the Eldorado site for a high school and Council’s subsequent approval was out-of-order.

Traffic and Safety Assessment: I am suspicious that the proposed traffic and parking study will be a white-wash particularly as it is being conducted after the approval of the school site by council. A traffic volume count does not factor in the safety issues regarding speed and vehicle density.

The implementation of the Erin Ridge North ASP, road access and new traffic patterns resulting from the closure of Coal Mine Road, for example, directly impact Erin Ridge, specifically Erin Ridge Drive and Eldorado Drive. As Eldorado Drive is now a major transit route for residents of Oakmont North to access these services, in addition to Bellerose/Boudreau roads, the impact of additional traffic to meet school timings and extra-curricular activities will only exacerbate the situation.

Planning is a key function of the City Administration and must be undertaken with the intent of ensuring a complete and unbiased analysis of opportunities is presented to Council for approval. That includes compliance with existing Bylaws, and communication with stakeholders to facilitate a climate of community involvement.

It is reassuring that Erin Ridge residents will be invited to consultation sessions to further discuss traffic mitigation strategies that may flow from the traffic and parking study. Council needs to address and correct the shortcomings in the planning process, create an open dialogue with stakeholders during project planning and implementation phases and establish a climate of community involvement.

William Fletcher, St. Albert

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