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 Connectedness In A Time of Crisis

The word, “unprecedented,” has been thrown around a lot lately. I’m not sure if that helps or makes things worse. There is no question that we need to take this seriously. Sometimes, I find myself getting overwhelmed by the idea of an, “unprecedented global pandemic.” It certainly has an ominous sound to it.

But, I choose to look at the positive and see various ways that people are caring for one another and the ways organizations big and small have stepped up, banding together to see that Edmonton and it’s residents get through this crisis.

What I find truly unprecedented in this time is the connectedness and neighborliness being demonstrated all over this incredible city. As hard as it is to see through the doom and gloom at times, it is important to keep our focus on the ways we can work together and help one another.

Incredible services have emerged from this. Immense deeds of camaraderie and, “help first,” mentality. It’s inspiring to witness.

Here are a few resources that you can use to continue the awesome trend of supporting and encouraging one another. Uniting as a City to get through this challenging time together. Fostering a continued sense of community and neighborliness.

Uniteyeg.glideapp.io – a resource that can be found on desktop or accessed as a web app that can be added to the homepage of any smartphone. It is completely user generated and features local restaurants and businesses that need our support and are positively impacted by having people order directly from them.

Text4Hope – Text COVID19HOPE to 393939 to subscribe. a free service providing three months of daily Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)–based text messages written by mental health therapists. It is a tool that helps people identify and adjust the negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours a pandemic might be expected to provoke.Through a set of daily messages, people receive advice and encouragement helpful in developing healthy personal coping skills and resiliency. There is no cost.

YEG Community Response to COVID-19 – an incredibly resourceful Facebook group offering amazing community support, discussion topics, and helps to anyone and everyone in need.

We truly are living through unprecedented times. But let’s make the story the future will tell about how a City came together in an unprecedented way!

As always you can reach me at , 780-496-1160 or on one of my social media channels, Facebook or Twitter.

Vision Zero

A few years ago we realized as a City that we needed to take action to ensure that no matter which way that individuals and families use the road, or interact with it, they know that they will be safe. We unanimously decided as a Council to implement Vision Zero. The Vision Zero program involves many areas working together to achieve the goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2032.

In 2018, the City installed pedestrian scrambles at busy intersections on Jasper Avenue, on Whyte Avenue, and around Ice District. We added 65 feedback signs informing drivers to stay within the speed limit, which now totals 215 across Edmonton. We invested in rapid flashing beacons, zebra crosswalks, reflective pole wraps, and no-left-turn signs for 27 schools areas. We improved signals at 19 pedestrians crossings and made existing traffic signals easier to see at 12 other intersections.

And it’s working.

By The Numbers

Collision data over a three-year period, from 2015 before Vision Zero was launched to 2018, showed a 41% decline in traffic fatalities and a 17% decline in serious injuries, even though the number of vehicles on the road has increased. As well, we saw collisions involving vulnerable road users including pedestrians decline by 21%, cyclists by 27%, and motorcycles by 31%.

But Vision Zero is more than just flashing amber lights and speed limit signs. It is an attitude and a value system that guides the way we live in Edmonton. It is the belief that life and health should never be exchanged for convenience, that we need to put safety first. It is the belief that everyone deserves to leave and come home safely every day. It is belief every single Edmontonian can adapt and contribute. When you slow down at a playground zone, stop at the pedestrian crossing, encourage your peers to drive to conditions, ensure the road is safe before crossing, you contribute to Vision Zero.

Let’s continue succeeding together.

UN Safe Cities

Last week I attended UN Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Leaders Forum which included much discussion on reducing sexual harassment and assault in public places in cities. The City of Edmonton is a wonderful City made up of many caring individuals, however, we still face a growing concern with violence and sexual assault. The majority of gender based violence is committed against women and girls, which points to roots of the violence about gender equality.  It’s an important issue for everyone to be a part of as violence against women and girls has economic, social, emotional, and physical impacts that limit their ability to fully participate in civic and political life. This could limit their potential as an individual, and their potential within the greater community. Men and boys play a large part in reducing this problem by being strong allies and advocates against violence and sexual assault .

As a City we saw the need to step in to help with this issue. In April 2015 the City of Edmonton’s initiative on gender-based violence and sexual assault prevention was initiated by Council, its aim is to end gender-based and sexual violence in Edmonton. If we want to achieve gender equity and empowerment, it is critical our public spaces are safe for everyone. A city free of sexual violence in public spaces is a city that is safe for all.

Edmonton is increasing crime prevention through environmental design audits of green spaces, transit terminals or other public spaces, with the intention of making spaces safer and more inclusive for everyone. The aim is to help people better anticipate their surroundings, feel welcome and know that services are easily available.

In 2016, Edmonton became the second ‘safe’ city in Canada to join the United Nations Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Initiative to make urban public spaces safe and empowering for women and girls.

As we have been working on this initiative we have learned that we need to clarify what gender based violence is – that it’s not just physical acts – but includes actions such as verbal and emotional harm. Understanding this helped us come up with and launch the “Its Time Yeg” campaign and itstimeyeg.ca to help people understand the effects of their actions. We know that working together is the only way we’ll end gender based violence.

There is a shared civic responsibility for stewarding these kinds of changes, and they must be done together. It’s important to acknowledge we all have a role to play in creating safe, inclusive spaces. Would you partner with me in standing against gender based violence?

Community Safety Conversation

I recently hosted a ‘Community Safety Conversation’; a partnership between City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Police Service and the Tri-Community Council (which includes the Sherbrooke, Inglewood and Prince Charles Community Leagues and the Inglewood Business Association).

This was an opportunity to review the previous year and reflect on community assets and areas for improvement. Our goal for the evening was to conclude with a community vision for 2016 and a concrete plan on how we, by working together, could achieve it.

Even in the face of freezing rain well over 100 people attended. I know that the residents of Sherbrooke, Inglewood and Prince Charles take their safety seriously, so this came as no surprise.

After some brief remarks from myself and the other partners, attendees went to work with a focus on what’s working, what can be improved, and how the City of Edmonton and Edmonton Police Service can lend a hand.

What emerged from our time together was a clearly articulated set of priorities – a plan.

Community Safety Conversations can sometimes turn into ‘roasts’ – venues where the city and police are accused of not doing enough and where the public is told that they need to take more responsibility.

In this instance, nothing could be further from the truth.

There was a feeling of shared responsibility in the room and a commitment to do what it takes to achieve the future that was clearly articulated during our time together.

So… what’s next?

City staff pulled together the feedback we received and reviewed it with the team that was tasked with organizing the Community Safety Conversation.

Over the next short while members of the team will be tapping various residents and partners from the Sherbrooke, Inglewood and Prince Charles neighbourhoods on the shoulder for their thoughts and support in working together toward a safer community.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in the Community Safety Conversation. Your feedback is a true gift and I look forward to working with our partners to put it in motion.