The University of Alberta is planning to develop its South Campus (lands otherwise known as the University Farm). Of course, this isn’t new to the communities neighbouring this area, who for years have been wondering about the direction of this development.
The development of such a large a parcel of land (600 acres), nestled among a number of mature neighbourhoods, represents an amazing opportunity for Edmonton. In Ward 10, it could mean a leading-edge campus and a significant increase in access to amenities that work for the surrounding neighbourhoods. This, however, can only be assured if the communities are given a seat at the decision-making table.
Collaborative planning Isn’t Mandatory
Typically, any new development requires public consultation and hearings, however the Post Secondary Learning Act exempts the U of A from standard city planning policies and processes. This means that the U of A is not legally obliged to collaborate with the city or impacted communities.
Although this legislation provides the U of A with this freedom, I don’t believe exercising it is in the U of A’s best interest, nor is it in the best interests of our neighbourhoods.
A Seat at the Table
I don’t mean to say that the U of A’s interests run contrary to the desires of the community and community consultation has improved in the past number of years. But there are already so many pressures on the university—from funders, the province, the city, impacted faculties, etc.—that the voice of the community can get lost unless we are guaranteed a seat at the table.
This is why we need a formal commitment from the university to include these communities as stakeholders in this development. The changes a development of this scale will bring to our communities will be immense. The increased density, traffic impacts and changing demographics require healthy integration and accommodation.
The Communities are already stakeholders.
But they’re not recognized as such.
When it comes to the development of 600 acres of land, which includes significant residential, recreational and retail uses, there must be clearly defined partnerships established between the U of A, city and affected communities.
We need a better deal to ensure the South Campus development enhances, rather than detracts from, the quality of life for impacted neighbourhoods. It should be modern, sustainable, and walkable.
Towards these ends, I want to work with the communities, the city and the U of A to create:
- A Memorandum Of Understanding between the U of A and the City of Edmonton, through which the U of A voluntarily adheres to the city’s infill planning and policy guidelines.
- A Community Engagement Charter, which outlines a democratic process that would give a meaningful voice to neighbourhoods that are impacted by medium and large-scale developments.
- A clearer vision for the South Campus development that aspires to high environmental standards for housing and building design, and contributes to increased walkability and amenities for our communities.
(1 & 2 are strategies similarly being developed in Calgary between the University and city there. It must also be noted that the Regulations that drive the Post Secondary Learning Act, including the consultation protocols are currently being reviewed by the provincial government.)
We have a ways to go to make the relationships between our neighbourhoods, the city, the provincial government and post-secondary institutions more productive. The U of A is a treasure in our city. I am committed to improving these relationships and ensuring that everyone wins in the development of South Campus.
Recently the Malmo Community League and the South Campus Neighbourhoods Coalition pulled out of the University led process related to the development of Michener Park. I support this decision and will work as the councillor to build new and better bridges between our communities and the university.
Michael served as the Aspen Gardens representative on the South Campus Neighbourhood Coalition in 2012-2013.
*These include the Ward 10 communities, of Grandview, Landsdowne, Lendrum, Malmo, Parkallen and Aspen Gardens.
Updated October 19th, 2013.