The right choice

City council’s move to grant first reading to rezoning land for the Red Deer Native Friendship Society’s new facility is a welcome decision.

The proposed location, found after extensive research into potential spots, is east of the Lion’s Campground. A public hearing is set for the June 10 meeting when nearby businesses and stakeholders will be able to offer their input as well.

This move comes after a lengthy, at times draining and emotional discussion which has been going for quite some time. Last year, council voted down a plan to build the facility in Clearview North after much vocal public disapproval of the proposal.

Feelings of discontent had surfaced, and much of the blame had been directed at council.

Looking back at that contentious period, it was disappointing to see how some residents reacted – you had to question what the real reasons were for some of the really harsh criticism against the project. During that particular meeting, Mayor Morris Flewwelling had to remind those in attendance of the real reason they were there – to work together to find a suitable spot and keep their personal views and emotions in check.

That’s why this week’s passing of first reading on the issue was good news – and it was good to see officials with the Red Deer Native Friendship Society so excited about the move as well. There is still a public hearing to go through, plus second and third readings of the rezoning, but there was no containing the optimism in Council Chambers Monday evening. Many supporters applauded once the unanimous support for first reading was given.

The facility, if approved, would be called the Asooahum Centre. Stakeholders say the housing and culture site includes outdoor space for programs and ceremonial uses. There would also be a community garden, office space and other interpretive elements.

Since September 2012, a joint steering committee has worked with City staff to identify appropriate land space for this project. Over 20 sites were explored as possible options. The RDNFS will start work on the design with the help of the community when they host a design charette in late June. At that time, the RDNFS would also need to apply for the appropriate permitting needed prior to any construction.

Although we don’t foresee there being as many naysayers this time around, council may hear concerns about removal of trees to build the facility and the potential impact on the land – the river bank in particular. City Manager Craig Curtis did point out that similar work has been done in the past on other facilities in the Waskasoo Park System but natural settings have always been replenished and the cultural richness of the City expanded.

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