City council heard a number of opinions from the public at a meeting held earlier this week regarding the Clearview North Neighbourhood Area Structure Plan.
Council will consider giving second and third reading to a bylaw later this month to rezone a four-acre site to allow for multi-family residential and/or a place of worship and other related uses. The site is located south of 67 St. and the Garden Heights subdivision.
The site was acquired by the City from the province in 2011. The conditions of the transfer of land stipulated that the land must remain in use for affordable housing for a minimum of 15 years and that the land must remain in title to the City.
The Red Deer Native Friendship Centre Society is currently looking at the site for a cultural centre with attached housing for low-income residents. It would also be available for individuals coming out for substance abuse rehabilitation.
About 160 people attended the public hearing – many were residents of the neighbourhood, but some were also representing the Native Friendship Centre as well.
Key concerns from the public included the possibility of decreased property values, safety and crime as well as traffic increases. Many residents also expressed concern that they did not know about this site until recently, even though it has been in the works since 2008.
“I suggest this type of housing is not suitable for a family neighbourhood with a possible daycare and elementary school minutes away. There are too many questions and things to consider at this stage for council to approve this vote,” said Mindy Ganson, a resident of Clearview North. “I urge council to postpone the vote for the rezoning until my neighbours and I are made aware of all the facts and plans for the property. We chose to live in this neighbourhood for a quality, safe and secure lifestyle and it is the responsibility of all of us here to preserve our neighbourhood.”
Sandra Dalton, a homeowner in Clearview North said she is also opposed to changes to the existing land-use bylaw.
“I bought into the area expecting it to be single home and family-oriented. At no time was I informed that there would be a change to the neighbourhood I bought into. Such choice should have been offered at the time of purchase and not in the last stage of development. It feels like a bait and switch to me. If this parcel of land was a gift from the province, as with any gift, sometimes you can return it. I would suggest we return this gift to the province and leave this land as a green space for the wild life to inhabit.”
Carmen Scott, whose home backs onto the pathway that would connect to the site, said she is concerned with the proposal.
“We also back onto a wooded area which I would consider a haven for criminal activity. We’ve already experienced that this past summer. There was some vandalism in Gaetz Lakes, a latch to our gate was broken and a car was stolen. There has been activity already and if we increase those numbers and we bring in more traffic, I’m concerned about our neighbourhood in those regards,” she said. “I’m not opposed to having a Friendship Centre. My husband is native and a lot of people don’t know that. Our issue is that it wasn’t in the plans when we chose to build in this area. What does it take for us as citizens to turn this around?”
Lynn Jonasson, an elder-support for the Safe Harbour Society, encouraged the residents to open their minds to having the Friendship Centre in the area.
“First Nation’s people believe in values, honesty, trust and love, family and community. This is a vision of where people can come together and have homes, not a vision of a detox centre or a treatment program. It is a vision of families who need a home. They are just like any other citizen of Red Deer. They have jobs; they have families. People are human beings and they are no different then anyone else. All they want is a home.”
Tanya Schur, executive director of the Red Deer Native Friendship Society, said she is concerned council will make its decision based on a few negative voices from the neighbourhood without having an opportunity to hear the voices of families who have benefited from such housing.
“I have listened to many elders say how this community has moved forward in terms of being welcoming and inclusive, and how we have a brave statement to end homelessness and be part of something provincially that will work hard, find its way and find its place.
“We have seen the benefits of being in community, we have seen the benefits where our elders can live where they can get rides to places, where community members will call our elders. These elders will live in that community,” she said.
“I can tell you stories about families who are working. I can tell you about the staff at the Friendship Centre and women who are raising their children in a good way and who have worked hard for many years in the non-profit sector who don’t have many benefits because of the choices they have made to do good work. Those are the families who are going to live in the community.
“We’ll bring the opportunity to share culture. We’ll keep that land a sacred place and make sure the animals can still travel safely too. There will be green space and community gardens for everyone. That’s a good thing. It takes a great deal of courage to lead in the face of opposition and controversy.”
Council will consider second and third reading at their next meeting which will be held on Oct. 15th.