Open letter to City Manager urges the City of Edmonton to consider expert advice and community input

Linda Cochrane, City Manager
City of Edmonton
3rd Floor, 1 Sir Winston Churchill Square
Edmonton, Alberta
c/o city.clerk@edmonton.ca

Holyrood Development Committee urges the City of Edmonton to consider expert advice and community input

As concerned citizens and representatives of a highly impacted neighbourhood, Holyrood Development Committee urges City Manager Linda Cochrane to refer Regency Developments’ proposal to develop the Holyrood Gardens site into high rise, high density development to the Edmonton Design Committee. We also request that the City engage independent facilitators to support meetings between our community, the developer and the City.

City Council’s September 11, 2017 decision to postpone the Public Hearing on the redevelopment of the Holyrood Gardens site until November, creates a window of time that can be used to gain expert input and to conduct open, meaningful public engagement. It is an opportunity to right some wrongs, including a Council decision that seemingly implies Regency’s proposed high density development is a foregone conclusion.

At 10:30 p.m. on September 11, City Council voted to delay the Public Hearing on the development. Less than a day and half later, City Administration endorsed new underground infrastructure for the site.  While this decision was positioned as a prerequisite for any future development, it is hard to interpret it anything less than support for the current proposal.

For everyone who sat through eight hours of City Council discussion on September 11, the evening concluded with nothing more than a hand up to Regency Developments. When Council debated on when to re-schedule the Public Hearing, the CEO of Regency Developments was, in a highly unusual procedure, invited to speak. He used this platform to make a plea to allow new underground infrastructure to proceed. No public input was obtained. This was a stunning example of political manipulation and a sad day for our city’s governance process.

Effective, transparent, and fair public engagement was an election issue in 2013. It led to the creation of the Council Initiative on Public Engagement. Four years later, are we any further ahead when a precedent-setting development could proceed without meaningful and, at times, even respectful engagement with members of the impacted community? As a community directly affected by this proposed development, we say absolutely not. We believe that any intention to consider a precedent-setting development demands that we are also precedent-setting with exceptional public engagement. The process to date overly compromises many of the policies, plans, and independent design review processes the City established to ensure well-informed and well-supported urban design, livability, and integration with existing communities.

Upon careful review, it is evident that Regency Developments is selectively using the City of Edmonton’s TOD and Residential Infill guidelines for their own benefit and the City of Edmonton’s Planning Department is supporting this practice. The only question that remains is whether City leadership will stand behind its commitment to the public by ensuring that developers are guided to build developments that follow established guidelines. We should expect nothing less than a detailed review of the proposal by the City’s panel of urban design experts and a demonstration of true public engagement.

Holyrood Development Committee

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Author: HolyroodDevComm

The Holyrood Development Committee was created by the Holyrood Community League to address development activities in the neighbourhood.