A big day will soon arrive for a contentious project along St. Albert’s river valley, with a public hearing slated for Riverbank Landing next week.
On June 9 at 9 a.m. residents are expected to virtually show up in droves to speak at the hearing to determine the fate of the Riverbank Landing project.
The development would see five buildings on the former Hole's Greenhouses site, two of which are 40 and 50 metres high, with 360 residential units and about 67,700 square feet of commercial space (for reference, the Botanica building next to the site is 37 metres tall).
For organizers in support and in opposition to the project, the lead-up to the event will be busy.
Jerry Husar, who is a member of the group opposed to the development, known as the Oakmont-Erin Ridge Concerned Residents, said the next week will be jam-packed trying to prepare for the hearing.
“We're extremely busy because we want to make sure that everyone who was in our contact group is kept informed, provided all of the facts and information that we have,” Husar said.
Husar and other members of his group, including Mike Killick and Sandy Clark, are encouraging residents to get out and register to speak at the public hearing or write in and share their views with council.
“A lot of a lot of people, unfortunately, don't believe their voice matters, and won't be heard, and we're really encouraging people to believe that their voice makes a difference, that their voice does matter,” Clark said.
Husar and Clark, who are residents of Oakmont, along with Killick, a Deer Ridge resident, have been working hard to spread information about the development, including taking out ads in The Gazette, handing out literature to 2,500 homes in several neighbourhoods nearby, picketing along Bellerose Drive, and posting on Facebook. All of the activity has been funded through a GoFundMe page set up for the cause, which has raised nearly $2,000.
The group stands by their literature and information, which they say was obtained from the material put forward by Boudreau Communities.
“We stand by the information that we provide. We're very cautious of ensuring that we present facts. The information that we provide is usually based on information that the developer has issued through their studies and reports and that type of thing,” Husar said.
But Dave Haut, CEO of Boudreau Communities, said he disagreed with information being presented by the group. The group said they disagree with some information being put forward by the developer.
The opposing group said the development will create more traffic in the area that will overwhelm the roads, but Haut said condominiums and seniors' housing have the lowest traffic generation of all types of homes. If the area were to proceed with a mixture of row houses and commercial, there would be more traffic associated with the project than with the proposed project, Haut said.
Overall, the Oakmont-Erin Ridge Concerned Residents group, which represents around 125 households, is concerned with the increase in density into the area, Killick said, which drives all of the issues related to traffic, proximity to the river valley, and overall size of the building.
“I'm a firm believer that if you're going to build this type of a product, it needs to have a community that's going to buy into it,” Clark said. The only way that will happen is if it's proposed in a new area, such as the undeveloped portions of Riverside, said Clark.
But Haut, who is developing the project, said there are many in support of the development, including those who live in the neighbouring Botanica buildings who want the type of lifestyle the condos will afford.
The building will have a high walkability score, Haut said, with residents able to walk to get a coffee and groceries.
“It's a lifestyle we all want,” Haut said.
The CEO said the homes will have price points not found in single-family homes, which will allow those with a lower income to get into the housing market.
But it can be tough to get people to come out and speak in favour of a project at a public hearing, Haut said he, too, is encouraging residents to come out in support of the project.
“The reason I'm hanging in here this hard on this one, is this is the right thing to do. It's right for the economy. It's right for the environment. And it's right for our daily lives,” Haut said.
“Change is scary. I get that. I just hope that the city will just give us the chance – based on a reputation – the ability to create something really fantastic.”
Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette