In Skyrattler, a community in the south part of Ward 10, I’ve heard many concerns about the use of a surplus school site for the First Place program. These aren’t NIMBY concerns. Reasonable and engaged community leaders have asked excellent questions about development on that site.
As surplus school sites go, it’s pretty small. And Skyrattler is a fairly dense neighbourhood: 84 per cent of housing in Skyrattler is multifamily. While the First Place surplus school site was never intended to be a park - in fact, none of them were - that’s how the community uses it. The proposed development would take up 1.2 hectares, and the total neighbourhood greenspace is 4.09 hectares. It makes sense that they’re concerned.
They’re not opposed to infill development, though. They, like most Edmontonians, recognize the logical benefits of the First Place program. It helps individuals and families who’ve never owned property in Alberta to buy their first home. It supports our long-term goal of having 25 per cent of new development be infill. It gives people the option of buying houses in mature neighbourhoods instead of the suburbs.
If we want infill to be successful in Edmonton, we have to listen to communities. That’s why, at their February 18 meeting, Executive Committee decided to defer the Skyrattler site to the last phase of the First Place Housing program. The City’s administration is going to talk to the owners of 810 Saddleback Road and to the Skyrattler Neighbourhood Association to find a better way to move forward with development. There are other sites in Ward 10 that are slated to go ahead on schedule.
For the First Place program - and infill generally - to be successful, public engagement is essential. It seems like every conversation I’ve had since the election comes back to public engagement. If I sound like a broken record, that’s because this is important. We need to do a better job of listening to communities. One of my Council Initiatives is on public engagement, and I’ll be writing a blog post on that in the coming weeks. The unique nature of the Skyrattler site, along with the engagement that community leaders have already shown, gives me confidence that deferring the site will allow time for meaningful engagement and a better plan overall.