This opinion piece was submitted by Red Deer Opinion Writer Garfield Marks
July 8 2019 Red Deer city council unanimously accepted an updated Environmental Master Plan which if followed would reverse a serious environmental misstep in their east end plans.
The city’s current plans and discussions could see maximum traffic noise, commuting and emissions, unintended consequences committing too much in one small area.
The potential trouble spot is a 4km. stretch or 40 blocks along 30th Avenue, at the east end of the city. Currently the discussion and plans suggest the locating of 4 shopping centres, 4 gas stations, 4 grocery stores, numerous restaurants, bars, liquor stores, 5 high schools, 2 fire halls, pickle ball courts, Collicutt Centre and possibly the new multi-use aquatic centre.
Forget the downtown, forget Gaetz Avenue, the new “Strip” will be 30 Avenue between 28 Street and 68 Street.
The traffic on 30 Avenue will be heavy, the noise loud and the emissions extreme for the residents along that stretch but then comes the commuting from the other 2/3 of the city.
A city of over 100,000 residents to plan 5 out of 6 high schools in such a small east-end space with the 6th high school only 10 blocks away on 40th Ave. is contradictory to the new updated Environmental Master Plan they unanimously accepted, so there is hope. The plan suggests building facilities like high schools throughout the city.
Collicutt Ctr. is the most popular recreation centre in Red Deer, used by 60% of the recreational sector of society and it is as I previously mentioned on the south-east corner of the city. This is unfortunate for those who do not live in that quarter of the city.
If the city continues down the road of focusing on the 4km. stretch of 30 Ave, then everyone could suffer. The long commutes, the increased traffic, the congestion, the emissions and the noise will affect everyone especially those living near 30 Ave.
There is hope. Perhaps the next high school will be built on the other side of town, perhaps the new aquatic centre will be built on the north-west corner of the city to book-end the highly popular Collicutt Ctr.
There is hope, the city spent $150,000 updating the Environmental Master Plan that the council unanimously accepted, so there is hope.
Or it could just sit on a shelf but I hope not.
OPINION: Marlin Schmidt on water allocation in the Bow River Basin
The wise allocation of water in Alberta is essential to the sustainable development of an economy that works for all Albertans while preserving our precious natural heritage.
In 2007, Alberta recognized that limits for water allocation in the Bow River basin had been exceeded. No more new allocations of water have been allowed and Albertans have carefully managed the water resources in the basin since then. Fortress Mountain Holdings’ recent application to haul away and sell more than half of the 98 million litres a year it currently has the license to use threatens the careful management of water in the Bow River basin.
The original operators of Fortress Mountain were granted a license in 1968 to use 98 million litres of water per year from a tributary to Galatea Creek to prepare food and provide drinking water to skiers at the resort. The current owners claim that more than half of that allocation is not needed for those purposes and now want permission from Alberta Environment and Parks to haul 50 million litres of water per year away and sell it to the highest bidder. Allowing current license holders to subsidize their business operations with the sale of the unused portions of their licenses moves Alberta further away from the goal of sustainable development and would put the future of our river ecosystems at great risk.
Much has changed in the Bow River basin since 1968 – the demands on the river ecosystem have increased significantly with the twin pressures of population growth and climate change. Re-allocating 50 million litres of water would increase that pressure in a very ecologically sensitive area. It would also set a dangerous precedent for future allocations of water resources. If this application is approved, there’s nothing that will prevent future water license holders from selling their unused water allocations, and while the license holders may profit, our watersheds will pay the price.
Additionally, we must remember that this water allocation would be given priority over all other allocations granted after 1968 under Alberta’s “first-in-time first-in-right water” allocation system. This means that Fortress Mountain would receive priority for this use over a whole host of other users during times of extreme water shortage. Is selling bottled water really a higher priority for the people in the Bow River basin ahead of so many agricultural and municipal water uses? Most Albertans who have talked to me about this issue don’t think so.
Revenues from the sale of the water would apparently fund the goals that the owners have for the development of the resort, including environmentally sound development, living wages for staff, charitable and community activities, as well as reclamation of the site. I support those stated goals, but it should be the skiers who use the resort who pay for those activities. The other Bow River water users and the ecosystem should not be asked to pay for others’ enjoyment of a ski facility.
Alberta Environment and Parks must live up to its mandate of supporting sustainable development now and for future generations. Rejecting Fortress Mountain Holding’s water application would be a step in the right direction.
Environment & Parks Critic
Alberta’s Official NDP Opposition
Red Deer residents are financing the devaluation of their homes.
There are two big issues with Red Deer’s population growth in the last 4 years.
First we are aging. 4 years ago the average age of Red deer residents was 35 years of age. Basically half the population was 35 or under and half are over 35. Now 4 years later the average age is 40 or 39.5 to be precise. So now half of Red Deer’s population is over 40.
Secondly our population increased by 195 residents (00.2%) but we added 1299 new homes. Basically the same number of taxpayers (with the minimal 00.2% increase), are paying taxes on 1299 new homes (3.09% increase).
Along with 1299 new homes, we the lowly taxpayer had to pay for servicing, transit, schools, service centres, roads, sidewalks, sewers, mowing, lighting etc so 1299 new homes could be built.
Now let us look at the 42,034 houses that was there before. There used to 2.4 residents per home now we are down to 2.3 residents per home. 4% decrease. Our taxes went up 10% on these 4 year+ older homes, in 4 years but we have fewer people paying the taxes. The value of our older homes have decreased below inflation, and a realtor told me that houses are selling at about 10% below assessed value.
Supply is out doing demand and we are financing it with our taxes.
Since our median age is increasing, and our population is stagnating means we are losing young families, we are decimating established neighbourhoods and we are financing it.
I think we should rethink this strategy. Let us build things that attract families who will create a demand for new homes. We have enough empty lots and half filled neighbourhoods. We have too many under utilized homes, too many people wanting to but unable to downsize or upsize but can’t afford to sell their homes in this depressed market.
The hardest hit neighbourhoods are north of the river and has been declining for at least 6 years. Perhaps we could build a high school or a new swimming pool to attract people to buy and renovate subsequently revitalizing the neglected older neighbourhoods. No new roads, sewers, transit, fire halls, etc to be built.
What have we spent on new roads and traffic circles lately, was it $135 million or $185 million? Did we top the $200 million? I am not sure exactly, different budgets, but I think it’s around there.
So with poor growth rates, and an over supply of homes, a depressed housing market, it may be time to change course. We have seen our population decrease before while neighbouring communities grew. Time for a re-think?
I believe it is time for a change because I don’t want to continue financing the devaluing of my home and scaring young families away.
How many more years before the average age in Red Deer is fifty?
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