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May 27, 2018
May 7, 2018

Edmonton Headlines: Monday, May 7, 2018

Zoning and education news

Written by Jeff Samsonow

Edmonton’s always got a lot of new developments and redevelopments happening, so I thought we’d start this look at local news with some zoning stories. Yay, zoning!

The biggest zoning change is going to be all the new rules for legalized marijuana, including retail stores, growing and cultivation and how that blends with medical marijuana and accessory shops. The big issues will be the distance between stores, and from schools and parks, and also where you can smoke. This one should be done by Monday night. Whatever the rules, it won’t be super-easy or cheap to open up a store, with a lot of licensing requirements and fees to pay.

Strathcona County just passed their marijuana bylaws, even though nobody wants to open stores there, yet. Meanwhile… a medical marijuana production facility continues its fight to open.

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We’ve got a handful of major projects in the news. Holyrood Gardens may be back to the drawing board again after the developer came back to the community with a proposal that added more units to the already contentious plan. Maybe the developer and community members need to follow the lead of a recent Lendrum project and get away from open houses to actually talk about what works.

Or they could split the difference and change the project enough to win over city council, even if some community members aren’t happy, as we see in the new Bateman Towers in Strathcona.

Bateman lands proposal image: City of Edmonton

I’m almost certain that this approval, along with The Mezzo and South Park developments, kills the chance of mid-rise buildings taking over Old Strathcona’s main streets. Edmonton could use a mid-rise neighbourhood!

Developers of a massive re-do of Bonnie Doon Mall will start to hear the conversation when they show off designs of that project.

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A historic blacksmith shop in Old Strathcona, on the south side of Whyte in Ritchie, could be knocked down without much to stop it, since the owner is looking to redevelop according to zoning passed in 1987. We are in such dire need of new ways to preserve heritage buildings and places in Edmonton. 

The Problem Properties Team sounds much more exciting than the Residential Living Governance Committee, but its work remains the same no matter the entity in charge; dealing with, and shutting down, homes that aren’t safe, buildings that are health hazards or are crime hubs.

Speaking of problems… there are parking problems in Gold Bar Park. We either have too much parking, or not enough, depending on how you look at the issue of Epcor trying to add more parking.

Gold Bar parking proposal, image: Epcor

Infill is going to be important to keep Edmonton from continually sprawling out, but with more than 50% of inspections resulting in violations, those building such properties obviously need more training (and licensing, in some cases…).

Just like we have in Edmonton, Fort Saskatchewan is struggling with lot-splitting and increasing density in the core of that city. We might be getting more secondary suites in Edmonton, and some of these smaller kinds of homes could even be up for sale.

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Hey, we mentioned Fort Saskatchewan in that infill section, so let’s jump outside the Henday for some stories.

The development of Bremner might be back up for discussion in Strathcona County, which had decided that was the area to build a new multi-billion dollar development even though it sits on rich farmland. St. Albert is reviewing its development plan, even as it puts a couple of area structure plans on hold for the work. Spruce Grove is banking on an arena and entertainment district to replace its coal jobs.

And one of the recent live chats on Edmonton Talkback was about sustainable growth.

It could have been great. image via Mastermaq

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Other stories to note: 

The Galleria is done. You know, the Galleria project. We talk about it so much it’s a real shock to hear it’s officially dead. (This one was always a bit iffy.) That little skinny tower in front of the Hotel MacDonald never seems to die though. The Blue Chicago site is finally getting some redevelopment. I kind of like the idea of The Wedge, so I hope we see this happen on Jasper.


School news

The mental health announcement. photo: Government of Alberta

There’s another school-related story we’ll get to, but I want to start with something positive first. The Alberta government is increasing funding for mental health supports in schools. This will mean more access to mental health counselling for students across the province and it’s exactly what’s needed in education and health. The Edmonton Public School Board was just talking about this too.

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Now then… you might have heard that Alberta’s Official Opposition, the party that has the second-most seats in the Legislature had its founding convention this weekend. The party that could very well form government after next year’s election had a pile of policies, and some speakers, that attack women and minority and vulnerable communities. Included is the push to out students who join gay-straight alliances (GSAs). We don’t know if a conservative government would build new schools, but we do know they’d build them at the Lake of Fire.

This is obviously a terrible, hateful idea borne of the far-right conservatism the united party looked to attract in an effort to combine the old PC and Wildrose parties. And it’s among many other policies the party officially adopted that don’t do a whole lot to help society march forward. Conservatives want next year’s election to be about the economy, but they’re made it clear it has to be about protecting public healthcare and education, women, Indigenous rights, LGBTQ2S+ and other vulnerable communities.

This was supposed to be a section about education, so let’s get back on track.

Oh, wait… Some Metro Region schools are among those challenging gay-straight alliance protections for students. Pay no attention to the conservative party connections.

Meanwhile, the first GSA for teachers is allowing them to better understand the importance of the groups, and how to run them.

Consent is going to be taught in all Alberta schools.

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While school boards make their pitches to the provincial government for construction money, an Edmonton trustee wants public schools to be at the top of every list. The Britannia neighbourhood is getting one or two new schools as four older ones are closed. Neither of Edmonton’s school boards can keep up with demand for modular classrooms.

Edmonton’s core neighbourhoods are getting a French immersion program. And it’s unfortunate to hear a local private college couldn’t accommodate a student who uses a wheelchair.


U of A

As the school year wrapped, the University of Alberta was in the news. A lot.

The Rutherford Library. photo: U of A

One of the big items is related to the school’s budget. Citing a lack of funding, the U of A is making some cuts and increasing the price of admission for international students, among other fees. The Advanced Education minister was not happy about the budget, even talking about how much the school pays its president. The president was also out and about talking about cuts and fee increases, which saw resistance from students. Some are even asking the province not to approve the budget as it was submitted.

Somewhat related to a bit of the public back-and-forth, we saw the provincial government bring forward the latest in its caps and cuts for various boards and commissions, knocking down the pay for post-secondary executives.

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It wasn’t just the budget that had the U of A in the news. There were questions about nepotism and loans related to one particular lab. That “Ingenuity Lab” is now closing. There has been plenty of noise about honorary degrees now that David Suzuki is getting one. Hopefully any one who pulls scholarship money to voice their displeasure will re-direct it to students in another way. The Lister Hall residence needs a major overhaul, which won’t come cheap.

Harassment claims are up, thanks to the societal shift after #metoo and use of a new reporting tool. The university is changing how it will implement recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but the news begins with the firing of an elder they had just offered a contract extension to. Students and others are waiting to see if the new direction will be as helpful.

And a fake online university lifted almost all of its bio and location details from the U of A. This is a strange one.

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