River Valley Solar Farm Decision

Edmonton River Valley Rezoning for Epcor water treatment facility solar farm

The land use decision to allow Epcor to use their land at the E.L. Smith Water Treatment plant for a temporary solar farm was a difficult one.  I, like many of my colleagues, agonized over this decision.  It was a 7-6 decision to rezone the land. Ultimately, I choose to support this land use.   

This proposed site is on private land held by Epcor that was intended to be used for the expansion of the water treatment plant.   A water treatment plant that serves the region.  This proposal would allow the water treatment plant to be self-sufficient and not rely on the energy grid, in addition to generating clean energy.

This wasn’t a discussion on the whole river valley (8,400 hectares) but on the small portion of disturbed land that Epcorowns for the future expansion needs of the water treatment plant (22 hectares).  We were to consider if this was an appropriate use of this land. 

The proposal is for a solar power plant on disturbed, fenced land that is owned by Epcor and had been earmarked for the expansion of the water treatment plant in about 30 years.  In the interim, a solar power plant was proposed for this land.  It would have less impact than the proposed water treatment plant.  It would be removed in 20-25 years and the land returned to its nature state.  

Previously council sent this back as there were concerns raised about the Indigenous archaeological significance and if the location should be deemed essential. 

Epcor worked with the Enoch Cree Nation to understand the area and have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with them to work together.   Enoch Cree Nation now supports the proposed land use.  Environmental reports were provided to address the essential aspect of the site.

Biodiversity impacts came up by many of the speakers and this was one subject where we saw differences of opinion by experts.   I believe the mitigation strategies proposed and on-going monitoring would address this.

I also considered the zoning change but in the end looked at the intended purpose of the land.   We often change our zoning to a new zone as we look at intended purposes for land. 

This proposal was considered on its own and this approval does not set a precedent for future development in our River Valley.  

First of all, I want to say thank you to the many Edmontonianswho shared their thoughts on this matter.  Many who agreed with solar farms but didn’t want it located here.   Others who disagree with what the experts had said.  Some felt the mitigation strategies on biodiversity were not enough. Others felt that the agreement with Enoch First Nation not enough consideration for the significant Indigenous history of the land.

At the end of the day I wrestled with this decision as I value the River Valley and recognize that many will believe we have impacted the ribbon of green. I was moved by many of the speakers and their passion and how this might impact future generations. Ultimately, I voted yes as I realize this is a temporary use on land that was earmarked for the future expansion of the water treatment plant.

Community Leaders Meeting

What do Community Leaders do on a Saturday morning?   They gathered under the shiny exterior of the Castledowns Pavilion last Saturday as faith, cultural and Community League leaders in Ward 2 met to discuss issues that impacted Ward 2, and other emerging city wide issues.   The conversation included everything from construction to infill and firehall’s to libraries.   We also chatted about something that is near and dear to my heart, gender based violence prevention and how we each play a role in changing the community conversation and actions to prevent more violence in our communities.   It can affect all of us regardless of social economic status, culture, faith and location.   We, as a City, have one of the highest rates in the country and we must say it is enough!   Education, awareness and community discussion are essential to change behavior and get those victimized the support and help they need.

I came away from the meeting encouraged that as leaders we can work together.   One participant commented after that it was great to hear what else was going on in the ward because it is easy to just focus on their own challenges.   Another wanted to find ways that we can advocate for change together in the City’s public engagement initiative. Others approached me and wanted to know what they needed to do to help prevent gender based violence.   All agreed that the meeting was valuable and would be happy to meet again!

It really reminded me of the quote by Margaret Mead that says “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  Together we can make a difference!

My Thoughts on the Metro Line

“Gloom, despair and agony on me” from Hee Haw certainly reflects some folks thinking of the Metro Line.

The Metro line has received a lot of criticism since it finally started operations.   Motorists, pedestrians and businesses have been impacted by the building of the LRT, delays in operations, challenges with signaling, timing of lights and limited train speed.   It has been the source of many conversations, frustrations and jokes!   It certainly wasn’t what anyone planned or hoped for, yet here we are with even more riders than we anticipated.   City administration is working to get the safety certificate so we can run at full speed in the near future.   They have also been working hard to address the pedestrian and motorist concerns by changing traffic light timing to help address traffic congestion.

We haven’t got the Metro Line running at full speed and Kingsway Mall is already stepping up to partner with the City of Edmonton to look at alternate sites for a LRT station and continue to support the long term vision of Blatchford.   I, for one, appreciate their willingness to still partner and sit and the table to discuss what has in not doubt also frustrated them and affected their business.

In a recent letter to me, Kingsway has said that “instead of looking backwards at what could have been one differently, we are looking forward at how we can partner in a way that is beneficial to the City, the community and Kingsway Mall.”

That really speaks to me about what a great city we live in when citizens and business see the bigger vision of what we need to continue to build a great city!

The City of Edmonton Child-Care Policy

This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

It’s a small world after all! Today, the City of Edmonton took one small step to a promising future. Thomas the Tank Engine and Dora the Explorer may be common interests for children, but one thing that is on almost every parent’s mind is access to quality, affordable child-care. They are interested in finding the best child-care option for their children. Some may choose to stay home, others may work part time or full time, and yet it seems there just isn’t enough space or options for some parents.

Today, Edmonton City Council passed a policy for Employee Child Care. The new policy will see the city exploring opportunities for child-care where more than 500 employees live or work within a five-kilometer radius of a city work site.

This all started with the availability of a day care for city staff in the new civic tower. City of Edmonton Staff were surveyed to determine if they were interested, and very quickly we realized that there is a need throughout the city.

The policy focuses on the provision of early learning and care with an understanding that it should be high quality, affordable and accessible to meet the diverse needs of children. It’s not just about employee retention, but also about employee attraction. It’s a milestone where we begin to give families and predominantly women who provide that majority of child-care responsibilities, choices to work for the city.

Will we have places tomorrow for our employee’s children? No, but we are beginning to take steps whenever we plan, build, retrofit or have leased space available to initiate early learning and care spaces for employees, and for the public if there is room.   Ultimately, this should help address the child-care shortage in the city.

My hope and my challenge is that other Employers will see the City of Edmonton as a leader and model to follow and look to providing quality child care options for their employees.