School site saga draws to a close

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Council gives two readings to bylaws redistricting Eldorado and Everitt parks

A long-standing dispute between Erin Ridge residents and the city over a school site and a lost park is nearly at an end.

But some area residents are still unhappy about the results that they say left them with less than two acres of usable park, down from more than 11 acres.

Council passed the first two readings to a bylaw that would rezone the remaining six acres of green space at Eldorado Park from public and private service district to park. But two residents who spoke at a public hearing Feb. 21 expressed their frustration at the entire process and the end result.

“It isn’t really a park, as far as I’m concerned,” resident Rob Pacholok said. “We started with over 11 acres of park. We’re now down to a fragment of that.”

In 2013, the province announced a new francophone high school and a public elementary school for St. Albert. The elementary school was picked to go into Everitt Park in Erin Ridge North without much public comment. The decision to put the high school in Eldorado Park in Erin Ridge resulted in pushback from area residents, who argued the site was too small and that the impact to traffic would just add problems to an already busy area.

In his presentation to council Pacholok pointed to the Erin Ridge area structure plans dating back to 1986 when there was 17 acres of green space on the site for residents to enjoy. He said residents were told any school on the site would be an elementary or junior-high school, which would at least have a playground for children to use.

Over time, bits of the park were removed and eventually the site was allocated for école Alexandre-Taché, a francophone high school with no playground.

Of the remaining six acres of park land on the site, he said, most of that is now sports fields which the school has exclusive access to on most weekdays. The city can rent out the fields to user groups on evenings and weekends, leaving residents with few options for spontaneous uses.

“We’re down to 1.93 acres of fragmented parkland,” Pacholok said. “So don’t even change it. You’ve taken it from us, take it all.”

He said he wanted council to remove the sports fields, giving Erin Ridge residents at least six acres of park space for their use.

Resident Murray Lambert likewise expressed disappointment with the entire process, saying the reaction from the city to the citizens’ group Erin Ridge Residents Action Committee demonstrated that “you can’t fight city hall” as even elected officials, who were meant to represent residents, instead became “adversaries.”

“Little did we know what our mission would entail or what we would endure from city council and administration,” he said.

Coun. Bob Russell said he understood the residents’ frustration with the process, and completely supported what they were saying.

“I think it’s atrocious,” he said. “Right now they’re frozen out.”

He said he intended to file a notice of motion to see how to provide some redress, including allowing residents greater access to the green space in the park.

Council also gave the first two readings to a bylaw that would redistrict a portion of Everitt Park next to Lois E. Hole Elementary School in a similar way, from public and private service to park. No members of the public spoke at that public hearing.

The bylaws for both the Eldorado Park redistricting and the Everitt Park redistricting are scheduled to come to council for third and final reading at the March 6 meeting.

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Doug Neuman