Zoning Bylaws Protect Our Residents

Local developers Bethel Land Corp and the Mayor admonished me for a vote I made on Council in a July 9th Sherwood Park News article. They both claimed I demonstrated bias and closed-mindedness in a blog to residents...

Well, I certainly did write a blog. In fact, two blogs to residents outlining the facts of a public hearing of a year ago where developers wished to rezone an area inside the Heavy Industrial Overlay (HIO) zone to multi residential seniors housing.

My first blog applauded the initiative of putting a seniors care resident adjacent to Synergy Wellness Centre medical facility.  However, the HIO zoning prohibits residential housing. Zoning that existed well before they purchased the land. Administration recommended against the first application.

The same developers applied for high density residential on the same piece of land. Thirteen months later, administration recommended that we put residential into a heavy industry transition zone. Any decision with so many comparables would, by logic, require new information. After reviewing the history of the HIO line, the facts and experts testimony of the first case, I wrote an article prior to the public hearing to outline the facts of the first application. I wanted more information. New facts that would explain to me why this community would push an industrial line back. The line after all was agreed upon by a comprehensive community process. Developers, industrialists, residents, and administration came to consensus on that line which was agreed to in bylaws adopted by Council in 2004.

During the second hearing I attempted to obtain new and different information. I repeatedly asked for information but found instead a lack of facts and no expert testimony presented by the developers and administration. In fact, administration’s report given as proof of the need to allow the encroachment was a paper written by industrial risk expert Doug McCutcheon. That same expert came of his own accord during our July 9th Council meeting to testify against this report as 'out of context' and 'incorrect as applied'! Administration also failed to bring forward their own Economic Development and Emergency Services departments with recommendations, as they did in the first hearing.

After the vote was taken, elected officials who voted against were admonished several times by the Mayor who chastised us for having an opportunity to “do the right thing” and not doing so. She then urged Council to agree to have Administration ‘review’ the HIO line. This will occur in January.

I will continue to hold our Council and Administration accountable. I will demand on behalf of our residents that industry, industrial risk management experts, developers, businesses and residents take part in this process. It’s important to do a comprehensive review that includes the refinery and storage facilities west of Sherwood Park. The type of rail cars that exploded in Quebec go in and out of that area on a daily basis, and are only a small amount of what gets processed and stored here. Given the province’s concern over municipalities building on flood plains without putting into place risk mitigation factors - I would ask that they too be apprised of this push to allow residential creep into industrial buffer zones.

Above all, I will continue to communicate to residents on the tough issues.

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commented 2013-08-01 09:14:31 -0600 · Flag
The tragic incident in Quebec is but the latest example of the potentially tragic consequences of mixing residence and commercial developments with industrial etc. activities. In too many places, we mix these items as a consequence of decisions taken many decades ago. At one time, our trains carried people, animals, grain, mail, supplies etc. and it made absolute sense for them to be in town. Now, not so much. But we can’t easily undo those decisions.

Our Council had a chance to protect citizens for many years to come from a serious industrial incident. I thank the members of Council that took the long view and maintained the integrity of the buffer.
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