This is a copy of a letter by Mr. Clarkson originally sent to the Editor of the Fort Saskatchewan Record newspaper.
As a long-time resident of Sherwood Park (1982), I have followed closely the initiatives which Strathcona County Councils have undertaken regarding land use within the County: – Agricultural Master Plans – two -one in the 1990s and most recently in 2015; the expansion of the Boundaries of Sherwood Park into the Colchester area – three – two in the 1990s and the latest in 2015; growth plans for Ardrossan and other rural communities; the study for a potential “New Community of Bremner, which I adamantly oppose! And the most recent Municipal Development Plan. Additionally, I followed the previous annexation initiative by Fort Saskatchewan City Council which culminated with the “2001 Boundary Accord” in which your City acquired a massive block of prime farmland for urban development.
As a result, let me say that I agree with two of the assertions that Mr. Proulx makes in his Editorial: Firstly, I agree it would be the height of hypocrisy for Strathcona County Council to approve the building of a new Community on the Prime Agricultural Lands where Bremner has been proposed. This would be particularly egregious just after Council UNANIMOUSLY approved the 2015 County Agricultural Master Plan which states that Prime Agricultural lands will only be considered for Urban Development when NO other options are available! Everyone knows there are other other viable options.
Once prime agricultural soils are destroyed they can never be recovered! Surely every citizen of the Greater Edmonton area is aware of the irresponsible destruction that the City of Edmonton has followed with its Urban Expansion into the County of Leduc and the Horse Hills areas. Our politicians must wake up and not allow themselves to be dictated to by these “Wild West” Land Developers whose only priority is to make easy profits regardless of its impact on our future ability to feed ourselves. Take a drive South along Highway #21 to see what I mean. It should be criminal to allow these fields of grains to be paved over with asphalt.
Secondly, I agree with Mr. Proulx that no one in Strathcona County or the City of Fort Saskatchewan should expect Strathcona County Council to even consider abandoning the legal agreement -the 2001 Boundary Accord – it has with Fort Saskatchewan until its expiry date December 31, 2031. I most certainly will be pressuring my Ward Councillor and all County Councillors to hold this position.
Where I have trouble with Mr. Proulx’s article is that he spends too much time disparaging Strathcona Council’s tactics to save agricultural lands but NO time addressing the irresponsible, cavalier way that Fort Saskatchewan’s City Council has gone about using up the massive tract of land they acquired in the 2001 Boundary Accord – one story commercial buildings with massive above ground parking lots, which mostly sit empty; a street and housing design that lacks modern innovations to increase population density, little or no initiatives to increase the Old Downtown’s residential high rise and commercial capacity and seemingly no vision or belief that they have a responsibility to support the farming community on their borders or to preserve prime agricultural lands to feed future generations. This is not just a responsibility of the Strathcona County Council.
The days of easy agricultural land grabs by Municipal governments must end. Hopefully this Provincial Government will bring some common sense and reason to the process. Our MLAs must play a key role in bringing this about.
Darrell Clarkson July 22, 2015