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Opinion

Sunnybrook has been paying property taxes for 56 years. Was it good value?

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red deer city hall

It is easy to travel around Red Deer and see examples of idealism meeting practicality and realism.

Unfinished roads going to non-existent bridges. Neighbourhoods like Timberlands, with a firehall and a high school and way too many undeveloped lots.

Capstone is a decades old work in progress that keeps hitting the taxpayers. In the beginning it was simple, move the dilapidated public works building out of downtown and turn the riverfront property into high end river view properties.

A wonderful vision but reality stepped in. The new public works, went with the high-end vision and the costs soared to north of a hundred million dollars and kept going. Re-aligning the roads took another 50 million, upgrading services, burying lines cost more.

After decades and about $200 million dollars we have 23 acres of empty vision. There is still talk of a $20+ million pedestrian bridge just metres away from Taylor Drive bridge. The costs for this unfinished vision is hitting $10 million an acre.

Enough with the eternal yet to be built projects, as more examples like the Dawe Arena twinning, north of 11A , 50m pool, Hazlett Lake, and the list keeps going.

Let us talk about the city’s tendency to build and abandon philosophy. The neighbourhoods that they cannot maintain.

Our Premier keeps talking or ranting about equalization payments, How Alberta has paid more to Ottawa than they have received back.

Our neighbourhoods can say similar sentiments when it comes to city hall. My neighbourhood, Sunnybrook is 55 years old. Our roads and sidewalks are 55 years old. We have been paying property taxes for 55 years. Did we get 55 years of property taxes back in return?

My 55 year old sidewalk got half of one crack repaired this year. The second time in the 20 plus years that I have lived on this street. I have shrubs growing in my sidewalk, I have pulled saplings out of the street in front of my house. My sidewalk has sunk to becoming a pool or an ice rink depending upon the weather.

The city said it cannot afford to maintain the 800 kms of sidewalks it now has. The population is static, population increase of 195 in 5 years, but we built 1299 new homes with sidewalks at the same time. If the crack is not at least 25mm (1”) wide and poses a tripping hazard it will not be repaired.

The city subsidizes the downtown with our taxes. They feel the downtown is a vital attraction for Red Deer. Sunnybrook was once named in MacLeans magazine as the Number 1 neighbourhood in Canada. Did the city capitalize on this national news item? No, it widened 32 Street and 40 Avenue and isolated and abandoned Sunnybrook.

The Bower Mall was built with the understanding that the Molly Banister drive would be extended to give direct access to Sunnybrook, Anders, Morrisroe, Inglewood, Vanier, Mountview, Deer Park etc. The Bower subdivision was built isolated from Molly Banister Drive by this commercial development.

The city wants to abandon that commitment.

Ideally, in another dimension, the Piper Creek would be this bubbling brook enjoyed by abundant wildlife and environmentally conscious Red Deer residents. Reality sets in.

The polluted, weed infested, algae prone creek by Bower Mall after flowing through 2 landfills, dead falls, blow downs, and a cow pasture, is isolated from the trail that comes out of the woods by Molly Banister Drive. The trail continues south in the grasses parallel with Barrett Drive on the west side.

The east side of the creek will have the old barb wired game proof fence that borders it, be replaced by the rear residential fences of 50 new homes, if the road allowance is removed.

Negating the bridge, eliminating the customer traffic, slowing emergency vehicles, forcing thousands of drivers daily to drive 4 extra kilometres in a city that CBC once reported had the poorest air quality in Canada. (September 9, 2015).

The city talks about a Garden of Eden, this wonderful wildlife corridor, where animals can roam except reality plays a hand. Traffic is a wall less barrier. 10,000 cars per day is the tipping point for wildlife. 32 Street is currently at 23,500 cars per day with expectations of 40,000 per day when it is widened to 6 lanes when Molly Bannister is not extended. 19 Street is expected to be widened to 6 lanes and traffic is expected to soar to even higher numbers.

The thing about 19 Street is that it too crosses the creek in this fantasy wild life corridor, on the south side of Molly Banister. There is no bridge, no tunnel, no safe way for animals to cross. There is talk about a pedestrian bridge for residents to cross. There is talk about a traffic circle for cars to have easier access to 19 Street. Where are the city councillors demands to protect the oft-mentioned wildlife corridor?

The proposed bridge for Molly Banister will take up an acre of land and the road will run along the creek similar to Barrett Drive in Bower and Selkirk Boulevard in Sunnybrook then run parallel with the power lines similar to 22 Street. The alternative being proposed is 50 houses along the creek taking up 16 +/- acres then a road to the power lines. Which is honestly better for wildlife?

The north connector encroaches on wildlife way beyond the Molly Banister Ext. yet silence from city councillors.

Realism plays a dirty hand at times, and the city seems to ignore this and you only need to look at future expenses the city incurred in their quests for unrealistic expectations. The million dollar annual payments for years to come for the winter games, the Exhibition Hall at the Westerner where councillors sat on the board, Capstone, Timberlands, North of 11A, Dawe arena, the unfinished bridge, the bus terminal’s green roof, and the list grows.

There are more options than (1)dream the impossible or (2) build and abandon? You could maintain what you have. Follow through on obligations and stop making rash decisions on immediate schemes.

There 300 families backing onto 32 Street that do not deserve to have their quality of life diminished. The same can be said of the families backing onto 19 St.

Thousands of families in neighbourhoods south of 39 St. do not deserve the traffic congestion forced onto their commute.

19 Street is becoming a valued asset to county businesses and Gasoline Alley will be easier to access than downtown. The downtown needs our help in more ways than subsidies.

I believed that the bigger the picture the more obvious the need for Molly Bannister to be extended.  So did we get good value for our property taxes? Will the attacks on our quality of life end? Does equalization even exist? We will see.

Thank you.

Political editor/writer and retired oilfield supervisor

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Opinion

December 2019 progress report on Red Deer Air Quality, Are we serious about this?

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The fine particulate issue has been plaguing Red Deer for a decade. CBC did a story on Sept 9 2015 describing Red Deer’s air quality as the worst in Alberta which has the distinction of being the worst in Canada. A committee was established. This is part of their update.

December 2019

The Red Deer Fine Particulate Matter Implementation Progress Report (the report) provides an update on
the state of the management actions for fine particulate matter management in the Red Deer area. Alberta
Environment and Parks, and members of the Red Deer Air Quality Advisory Committee (the Advisory
Committee) developed three priority objectives to implement management actions to reduce fine particulate
matter (PM2.5) levels in the Red Deer Air Management Area. This report, therefore, presents highlights of
the progress of the Advisory Committee and its represented stakeholders have made in implementing the
Red Deer Fine Particulate Matter Response (the response).

The Red Deer area exceeded both the Canada-wide Standards (CWS) and the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5). In 2015 the Advisory Committee was
established and charged with working to reduce the ambient levels of PM2.5 in the Red Deer Air Quality Management Area by implementing a management response. The response was released in April 2016 for implementation over 15 years.

The response contains three objectives: Action, Investigation, and
Engagement. Each objective contains management actions that the Advisory Committee can implement in
three phases: Phase 1, ending December 2020; Phase 2, ending December 2025; and Phase 3, ending
December 2030.

Purpose
The purpose of this report is to provide an update on the efforts to implement the response within the three
priority objectives that have informed the activities of Alberta Environment and Parks and the multistakeholder group to date. The three objectives are: Objective 1 (Action), Objective 2 (Investigation), and Objective 3 (Engagement).
The response is currently in Phase 1 of implementation (2015 – 2020). This report highlights the progress made since the implementation of the response in 2016, any additional priorities identified, actions to achieve by the conclusion of Phase 1 (in 2020), and the context that informs the path forward. For more
information on these objectives, please refer to the response. The goal of the response is to reduce ambient fine particulate matter concentrations and remain below the CAAQS, as measured at ambient air quality monitoring stations within the Red Deer Air Quality Management Area.

The science report identified transportation as a major source of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and VOCs. Transportation related sources release these gasses and in turn lead to the formation of secondary PM2.5 in Red Deer. Additional investigation, specifically Provincial Air Quality Photochemical Modelling 4 continues to highlight transportation-related sources as a significant contributor to emissions that result in the formation of PM2.5. Transportation related sources include on-road and off-road sources. A wide range
of vehicles, engines and equipment types including personal and commercial vehicles, and combustion driven lawn and garden equipment contribute to transportation related emissions. Transportation related sources are concentrated near population centers.

There is more to this report but I would like to respond.

We all know that the city is trying, greening the fleet, idle-free zones, LED bulbs etc. but there are those who believe that air quality is not that important.

For example; Don’t idle but do drive 4 extra kilometres and 6 minutes longer through residential neighbourhoods and school zones. I am talking about the immediate pressing issue of the Molly Banister Extension.

We have discussed the economic costs of not extending Molly Banister with widening roads, traffic circles, pedestrian bridges and other secondary roads. We talked about business commitments to Bower Mall and south west businesses being overturned. We talked about building 6 lane roads through residential areas and school playgrounds.

We talked about building a bridge over a creek in a cow pasture that has been fenced preventing access to pedestrians and wildlife for decades.

Now we shall talk about air quality.

Thousands of cars driving 4 extra kilometres and 6 extra minutes everyday, 3,000 x 4 x 365 =4,380,000 kms per year and that is a minimal estimate. 23,500 cars per day on 32 Street servicing many neighbourhoods along 32 St. and also along 22 St.

We are talking about bridging the Piper Creek for vehicular traffic to reduce commuting.

Less commuting. Less emissions. Better air quality. Is that not the goal?

 

 

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Opinion

The city prefers housing, commercial buildings and gas bars on Piper Creek over a bridge, why?

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On October 27 2020, 1 PM,  there will be a public hearing at the Harvest Centre on the Westerner grounds because the city council wants to remove the Molly Banister extension so a developer can build even more houses along Piper Creek.

Currently the plan shows Molly Banister continuing across the creek then south to the power lines and west to 40 Ave. and 22 Street.

They state that this is a wildlife corridor, but just south of here is 19 Street with commercial development, office buildings, gas bar and parking lot, metres away from the creek. Southern point is just a culvert. The pollution alone from the parking lot, the potential oil and gas seeping into the ground then the creek.

Apparently this is all preferable than having a road, a sidewalk and a bridge.

There are 2 dozen homes that back onto Molly Banister that would see more traffic, This is minimal compared to the 300 families that back onto 32 St, that would see 6 lanes of traffic. 2007 the city decided not to expand 32 Street into 6 lanes because of Molly Banister taking some of the traffic. With Molly Banister off the table 32 Street gets expanded starting 2026. They are spending millions on the 32 St. bridge over Piper Creek. I emailed the city leaders asking if they are building it up for 6 lanes, and have yet to hear confirmation or denial.

There is talk that hikers, bikers and skaters would have to cross the Molly Banister bridge. You can build the bridge over the trail or you can have the trail exit the woods 40 m sooner and cross the road with a crosswalk signal.  Right now there are thousands of people driving 4 kms further every day to travel around this subdivision. There is approximately 50 hectares to be built, the city wants 17 housing units per hectare which means 850 units. That would add to the current number. We are talking about millions of kilometres of extra driving every year, think about all those extra emissions pouring into our air.

September 2015, CBC reported we had the worst air quality in Alberta which had the worst air quality in Canada. This will only ensure it gets worse.

10,000 cars per day is the barrier for animals crossing a street. 32 St is now at 23,500 cars per day. 19 St will beat that. Animals are being kept in an area between 32 St. and 19 St. Which will be walled in, not by the current barbed wire fence but with housing, commercial buildings and parking lots.

The current trail runs along Barrett Drive on the west side of the creek in a grassy area away from the creek and inaccessible to the creek part of the way due to the barb wire fence.

Red Deer College was to see a second entrance on 22 Street easing the pressure off 32 St. Bower Mall and neighbouring businesses would have direct access to residents across the creek.

It is not like we need 850 more homes. The last census showed the city only grew by 195 residents in 5 years while added 1299 more housing units. Forcing the depreciation of our assessments last year.

The developments already built showed the tendency to remove trees and vegetation along the creek.

So my question remains. Why is a well thought out traffic corridor with a bridge and a road, that has been the basis for commercial and residential development, worse than having housing and commercial buildings encroaching on our creek?

The public hearing is 1 pm on October 27 at the Harvest Centre on the Westerner grounds, Please speak up.

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