To the disappointment of some residents, the city will be moving forward with the Hillside Redevelopment Plan as presented. A special council meeting was held Monday after a unanimous decision could not be reached at last Monday’s meeting, which drew a large number of Hillside residents.
At that previous meeting, council was presented with a petition signed by 130 households out of approximately 700 homes in the area according to Councillor Kevin Maclean, which he said had a major impact on his decision to vote no.
“They weren’t all in favour of it and I wanted to delay it. There’s no major construction going to happen through the winter and I don’t think it would have been a hardship on anybody.”
Consultations for the project began back in September 2016, which was followed by the formation of a steering committee that met on a monthly basis through-out the remainder of 2016 and into early 2017. The ARP is meant to be a vision for how the aging neighbourhood will evolve as it continues to grow.
One of the concerns raised by residents was the make-up of that steering committee, which included 8 homeowners out of a total 12 members. During the special council meeting Councillors Clayton, Thiessen, Radbourne and Tarrant also expressed support for the consultations and steps followed by the city. However resident, Bruce Flynn, felt the process was less than transparent calling it “corruption at its finest”.
“From my understanding, and the majority of people we spoke to in Hillside, there was a lot of people that wanted to be on that committee, but the city picked who they wanted to be on that committee. I think the ‘homeowners’ were the families that own homes there that are rentals.”
Mayor Bill Given says that council is lucky they have the benefit of seeing the full extent of public engagement efforts done by city staff.
“I think it is important to recognize no matter what level of engagement council and administration implement in a project, it’s not unsurprising to me that there will still be people opposed.”
Given also says this process can help to combat urban sprawl.
“Grande Prairie is a community with no natural barrier to development and it’s very easy to just buy the next quarter of farm land over and just put up a new neighbourhood. But this is actually a very costly style of development for the city. It means driving our graters down more kilometers of streets and that costs taxpayers more. So, the ability to accommodate new growth in existing neighbourhoods is very important.”
Residents and homeowners in the area are encouraged to join the neighbourhood association which will continue to guide revitalization efforts. Currently 17 neighbourhoods around Grande Prairie have associations for residents to participate in. Mayor Given believes they will serve as a “vital link” between communities and city council.