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December 10, 2018
December 22, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Friday, December 22, 2017

Change rules for everyone

Written by Jeff Samsonow

A look at proposed Ice District retail. image source

Since this will be our last Headlines of the year we should go out with a bang. So, let’s talk about land-use bylaws and zoning!

Yeah, I know how to party.

Downtown, the Katz Group is after a change to Edmonton’s liquor store rules, which keep new stores from opening up within 500 metres of an existing shop. That rule is for older neighbourhoods, where it’s been argued a proliferation of liquor stores doesn’t look good or really help add to the livability of a community.

On the face of it, that rule doesn’t make sense if we’re talking about an amenity a neighbourhood actually wants (which may be the case here, with the support of the Downtown Business Association and community league) and the rules could be helping existing stores corner the market. So, I kind of get why city council is considering the application. 

But! 

We shouldn’t change the rules just for the Katz Group. Even if they have single-handedly put Edmonton on the map and revitalized our city. (Related: Goodbye, Northlands Coliseum)

As we see in another story this week, Edmonton’s liquor store rules can be appealed and it could mean the zoning won’t hold up. Even here, if the application is turned down by city council, it will likely be appealed to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) or taken to court, and we might see the liquor store approved anyway. 

So, let’s re-consider the rules, but let’s open up changes to every liquor store and entrepreneur. Surely we can balance that in a way that supports neighbourhoods that do have good reasons to ask for some restrictions in how many liquor stores they have. 

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To Edmonton’s east, Strathcona County is struggling with its land-use bylaw because of the legalization of marijuana. The county may try to keep marijuana operations out of agricultural areas, which does sound weird. A major operator trying to open up a facility is already saying they’ll go to another municipality if they have to be in an industrial area. Since we see big business happening around Edmonton’s metro region, this isn’t a hollow threat

It does raise good questions about how fast all this is happening, and how quickly municipalities can get rules in place for all the changes legalization could bring. Outside of the growing and packaging side, we know we’re still waiting for rules around dispensaries and the places we can buy marijuana, or we’ve got the first versions coming together. And, just like liquor stores, we’re going to need to see how the new rules play out and whether they’re a good fit for different kinds of neighbourhoods.


At the school board

Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) trustees held their last meeting of the year this week. They got an update how student reading levels are doing. Still some work to do there. But, this also speaks to the increasing complexity in the classroom, including more students with specialized needs and up to one-quarter learning English

Some of the EPSB’s alternative programs are expanding, including a real push for more French immersion


Around the city

Terry Cavanagh, photo source

Former city councillor and two-time interim mayor Terry Cavanagh died this week, and was remembered quite fondly by his colleagues. Over his decades of work, he’s probably most remembered for helping keep the Hotel MacDonald perched at the top of our river valley. Even though he was twice chosen as interim mayor, he never won the seat for himself. And, if you’re new to the city but his name is familiar, it’s probably because you’ve noticed the new community in southwest Edmonton named for him

The Edmonton Combative Sports Commission met for the first time since city council approved a moratorium on new fight events for 2018. The commission is expressing its own disbelief at the moratorium. The limit on events is a big deal for people in Edmonton’s boxing, MMA and fight industry, and some are saying this is going to force fighters to leave

A new ticketing blitz is targeting dog owners who let their pets run off-leash into a multi-use path and see the animals are clashing with cyclists. It sounds like this is a big issue in multiple spots around Edmonton, and people on both sides are pointing fingers at who is causing more problems. 

Not too far from that particular off-leash area, neighbours in Westmount are starting their own historic recognition program for homes in the community. 

Back to tickets for a moment… if you’re not paid up for parking, new cameras are going to catch you and make sure you get fined. This is the next step in Edmonton’s electronic parking metering. 

This time of the year means the Donate-a-Ride campaign is back on. Edmonton recently added a new low-income transit pass, but this fundraiser is still needed since it provides tickets to organizations around the city that help people who need access to transit.

A new app can give you a daily look at Boyle Street Community Services. It updates every day with how many people accessed resources and some demographic information. The data is also being used by Boyle Street to track and maximize programming.

To Edmonton’s south, Highway 19 twinning between the airport and (just south of) Devon is delayed.  

Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild has been chosen to head the interim board of directors for the National Council of Reconciliation. 

The (old) Royal Alberta Museum isn’t dead quite yet. It’s still being used by museum staff for a few more years and after that, well… that part might be up to you

And we’re getting a new super-lab at the U of A’s south campus. It’s going to be the major hub for all medical testing. The lab will be going where the soccer fields currently are, so there will also be new sports fields built during construction. 


Year-end interviews

As we started tracking on Tuesday, local newsrooms are starting to crank out their year-end interviews and year-in-review stories.

EPS Chief Rod Knecht, image source

This week, we’ve got Premier Rachel Notley on CHED. Another interview with fire chief Ken Block, this time talking about the challenges of Edmonton’s increasing high-rises and tunnels

Edmonton Police chief Rod Knect has two appearances. He’s in a Q+A with Metro Edmonton and talking with CBC about considering seeking another term as chief, as well as expanding cyber and economic crime work.


Police news

The police chief was asked about reducing marijuana investigations in that article from Metro, and he didn’t really have specifics on whether that was happening. Then today, we’ve got a marijuana bust in the news. It’s going to be interesting to see how many charges laid between the announcement of legalization and implementation on July 1, 2018 are challenged and appealed, or at least have charges and penalties reduced.   

Edmonton Police are trying to recruit more women and more diverse officers. This is obviously long overdue and necessary to change how police operate in communities they don’t reflect.

The nature of the relationship between the police and some racialized and Indigenous communities acts as a barrier. We know that Indigenous populations, black populations are overpoliced, meaning that they’re the victims of racial profiling and that they often have a rather hostile or tense relationship with the police.”

On that very topic, we have a new feature story on police carding in Edmonton. Reviews of the practice are delayed and stalling out, which does not bode well for changes to when, how and why police collect people’s personal information. 

There’s a reported decrease in violent crimes on Edmonton’s LRT system, between 2015 and 2016. Although it’s not clear how much of the decrease might be due to a change in how the stats are tracked, so we’ll have to see what this year’s numbers say. 

After some recent turbulent years, Edmonton’s police union has a new president

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The province also has its new Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta. Mary Moreau is immediately trying to free up resources to move cases through all courts more quickly (criminal, civil and family), especially to keep criminal cases from being dismissed when they don’t meet new timeline rules. 


Happy holidays

Remember, that this years’s city celebration of the new year is over at the Alberta Legislature, with fireworks at 9 p.m. The move is due to LRT construction downtown and the early fireworks are to make the event more family-friendly. 

Since you’ll be home for midnight, you can watch for Edmonton’s Melisizwe brothers as part of the big show from New York City’s Times Square. 

As for us, with Christmas and New Year’s coming up, we’ll be taking a break from Headlines and new stories. You’ll still see us on Twitter and Facebook, and we’ll have more local news coming your way the first week of 2018. 

Happy holidays, Edmonton!

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