Why should you care about land use decisions in Northeast Edmonton?

  • The City and its citizens can’t afford it.  Suburbs are a drain on cities.1 The City of Edmonton has estimated that the infrastructure deficit is $19 billion from 2009 to 2018.2
    • $1.2 billion projected bill for unfunded infrastructure for neighbourhoods already approved for development3
    • $1.2 billion projected bill for unfunded infrastructure for Urban Growth Areas

Essentially, by approving the Horse Hill ASP, Council would be adding  hundreds of millions in infrastructure costs that it has no plan to pay for.  This on top of $1.2 billion in infrastructure costs already committed to, with no plan for how to pay for that.  Developers/homebuyers pay some of the upfront costs for development, building road and sewers, and providing land for parks.  The City has to fund the development of parks; contribute to building larger roads; buy land for and build recreation centres, fire and police stations, and libraries.  The $1.2 billion figure does not include operating costs for recreational and emergency services, snow removal, road and sewer maintenance, road widening, building interchanges, public transit, the list goes on.  In fact, a 2011 City Report indicates on average the City spends $1.36 for every $1.00 it collects in revenue for new developments.4

  • New and aging infrastructure needs in other parts of the city (e.g., LRT and public transit, sewer, roads, police stations, fire halls, libraries, snow removal, etc) will likely be put on hold to support the costs of this new development. There’s already a gap of $10.5 billion between what the City needs and the projected available funding for infrastructure.5  We need to know how the city plans to pay for our long-term infrastructure needs across the city in the context of this current development application.
  • Once soil is paved over, it’s gone forever.  Like taxpayer money, farmland is not a resource to be squandered lightly.  And yet the City in all of its development decisions has NEVER chosen farmland over development. Farmland in northeast Edmonton is clearly superior with assets that include rich fertile soil, an advantageous climate with an expanded growing season, ready access to irrigation water, existing rail and road transportation links, ready access to the urban market, ready access to a labor force and generations of farming experience already there.  None of this is easily transferable. It’s a synergistic blend perfect for new and thriving urban agriculture farms and related businesses and services.
  • The unexplored economic, social, environmental and health benefits for a local food economy are enormous.  The City of Edmonton spent over $750,000 developing their FRESH: Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy.6 The report states on page 5 that “producing more of our food closer to home has current and future benefits including: a multiplier effect on local economic development, agri-tourism opportunities in the food sector, the health-related benefits and cost savings of fresher food, the environmental benefits of ecosystem goods and services and the potential to reduce food waste and emissions from less transportation”. Unlike many resource sectors subject to boom/bust cycles, agriculture is far steadier. In fact, demand for food increases as a population grows and markets develop.
  • This decision will impact the future generations who will be paying for the cost of this residential development and the loss of the urban agriculture opportunities for years to come.  The same vision and forethought that was used to create Edmonton’s world renowned Waste Management System and our River Valley System needs to be brought to our Local Food System.
  • Citizens have asked, over and over, that urban agricultural alternatives and preservation of agricultural land be one of the criteria for future planning and development in Edmonton.  During the development of the Municipal Development Plan, the city The City engaged in a comprehensive public consultation process as part of the development of the FRESH: Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy. Citizens consistently indicated that access to land for growing food and preservation of agricultural land within the city limits was a priority and a sound direction for the city to undertake.7,8,9
  • We are going to need a more locally grown food supply sooner than later. Economists and food system analysts are telling us that there is currently only a two to three day supply of food in our city’s grocery stores. Most of our imported vegetables and fruits are from areas highly dependent on a reliable water source, consistent weather temperature and cheap transportation. As climate change impacts are felt globally this in turn will impact both the reliability and the cost of the foods that we currently have relatively easy and cheap access to.

References:

  1.  Freedgood, Julia (2002). Cost of Community Services Studies: Making the Case for Conservation. American Farmland Trust.  (Fact Sheet Summary – http://www.farmlandinfo.org/documents/27757/FS_COCS_8-04.pdf
  2. Gilbert, R. (2011, March 28). Infrastructure Plan Sorely Needed to Address Deficit. Journal of Commerce: Western Canada’s Construction Newspaper. Retrieved January 19, 2013, from http://www.joconl.com/article/id43581
  3.  City of Edmonton. (2012). Growth Coordination Strategy, Draft 5.
  4. City of Edmonton (2011). Costs & Revenues for New Areas. http://www.chba.ca/uploads/urban_council/Oct2011/Tab%206%20-%20Costs%20and%20Revenues%20for%20New%20Areas%20-%20City%20of%20Edmonton%20paper.pdf
  5. City of Edmonton. (2012). 10 Year Capital Investment Agenda. http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/documents/Approved_2012_Capital_Investment_Agenda.pdf
  6.  City of Edmonton’s FRESH: Food and Urban Agricultural Strategy, October 2012. http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/documents/FRESH_October_2012.pdf
  7. City of Edmonton’s Public Opinion Survey, September 2012. http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/documents/Food_and_Ag_Public_Opinion_Survey_Report_Sept_2012.pdf
  8. City of Edmonton’s Citizen Panel, September 2012 http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/documents/Food_and_Ag_Strategy_Citizen_Panel_Report_Sept_2012.pdf
  9. City of Edmonton’s Stakeholder Focus Groups, September 2012 http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/documents/Food_Ag_Stakeholder_Summary_Round_2_Sept_2012.pdf