On Monday, Dec. 11, four members of city council voted to allow an 80-unit building to go up on one of the oldest forested sites in St. Albert. Afterwards, the developer’s consultant, Greg MacKenzie, praised these councillors online for their courage in “making the right choices to support the larger community vision in the face of the typical opposition of the vocal, self-interested minority!”
My Liverpudlian mother-in-law described his comments best as “What cheek!”
Despite acting as a spokesman for all developers, he only speaks for his company. On the other hand, our neighbourhood organization of 320 souls are genuinely concerned about infill that worsens safety, traffic, parking, green space congestion and destroys the river valley. We have no money for this, while Mr. MacKenzie can afford slick presentations and hire biologists and engineers. But he’s obviously sincere in one respect, because he can continue getting rich by helping to infill the river valley, thanks to the city council.
At the meeting, Dr. Matthew Wheatley presented a brilliant definition of the river valley, which is already 70 per cent developed. He asked the councillors to stop developing this endangered area, but the pro density group just repeated the same old excuses for high density infill: (paraphrased)
- I don’t believe that this one project can harm the entire river valley system. [Mayor Cathy Heron]
- All the environmental studies I have read say that we are doing fine. [Councillor Ray Watkins]
- Even if this is called an “aspirational” choice, it’s in the same direction that the CRB and us are going in, right? [Councillor Wes Brodhead]
- We have to protect agricultural land even if there isn’t much of it around St. Albert. [Councillor Wes Brodhead]
- We have to stop urban sprawl and move to high density. [in the river valley?]
and the winning excuse was:
- There’s only a few more places left in the river valley that could be re-zoned as R3A that might damage the river valley. We should seize this rare opportunity while we can.
These councillors appeared to be retreating from the central issue. There may be no ‘green’ river valley left if we keep infilling it. Endlessly repeating the mantra “Density and Infill are Good” can lead to mental constipation.
The real courage that night was displayed by councillors Sheena Hughes, Ken MacKay and Jacquie Hansen, who thought the issue out logically and bravely spoke out. Unfortunately, the last city council has approved so many high density projects that there are more than 6,000 suites approved or under construction in the city. When the towers start rising in Grandin to complement the large ‘Borg’ cubes of the ludicrously misnamed “Botanica” project, it will be much too late for saving St. Albert. Thanks to Nolan Crouse and his trusty lieutenants Heron and Brodhead, we are well on our way to becoming a community of condo dwellers and big box stores. This is the kind of leadership we can do without!
W.G. Whitney, President, Friends of the St. Albert River Valley