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DebraW
21-05-2007, 10:25 AM
Edmontonians are losing public access to river valley, ravines

The Edmonton Journal
Published: Monday, May 21, 2007

I love Edmonton's river valley and ravines, but find it intimidating to have to park in front of million-dollar homes to access them.

In April 2007, the administration provided a report to city council on public access (and parking) to the river valley and ravine lands, including a comparison of access in the inner city to those in the southwest and west.

The conclusions confirmed what I already knew to be true: Edmontonians are quickly losing the scenic vistas and access that are a hallmark of our city's quality of life and have helped define some of our most prestigious neighbourhoods.

In 1970, council approved a top-of-bank roadway policy that would ensure open space between the North Saskatchewan river valley and ravine system and urban development, in the interest of providing public access to the river valley and ravines. The policy stipulates that, with some exceptions, all new residential areas abutting the river and ravine system be designed with a public road and minimum 7.5-metre-wide green space separating the development and the top of the river valley/ravines.

The policy states that the alignment of the top-of-bank roadway shall be established through investigation of soil and slope stability, except where in the opinion of the Municipal Planning Commission, environmental or engineering circumstances deem otherwise. Other criteria include major pipelines, utility corridors, public recreational facilities, urban service land uses or the existence of promontories or spurs of land of such a size that a cul-de-sac would be more appropriate.

In those circumstances where it is determined that a top-of-bank roadway or lane is not possible, the policy requires at least a 7.5-metre setback for public access between the top of the bank and any abutting development site.

Despite this standing policy, a variety of justifications have enabled developers to get around compliance in recent years.

Often-used arguments given for why a roadway is not feasible can include that the developer doesn't own all of the land along the bank, or that the development of a road with lots only on one side is not economical.

This brings the discussion back to the administration's recent report.

In comparing river valley frontage and access, the report found that, in neighbourhoods within the inner city, only 29 per cent of developments lacked top-of-bank roads or walkways.

In Blackmud Creek, where development is currently occurring at a frenzied pace, 35.5 per cent of developments have no top-of-bank roads or walkways and in the west end, this number reaches an astounding 68.8 per cent.

Furthermore, while there are 14 public parking lots in the city centre adjacent to the river valley, there are only two in Blackmud Creek and the west end respectively that yield public access to the river valley.

Last week, council voted on an area structure plan where the developer indicated they would attempt to achieve 13 per cent of top-of-bank roadways. In subsequent motions made to increase the roadway allocations, a motion increasing the allocation to 25 per cent was lost on a tie vote.

Having dealt with a number of these developments in council, I recognize there are economies of scale and that it is not always feasible to achieve the policy to its fullest extent in all neighbourhoods.

It saddens me though, that in recent times public access to and retention of beautiful natural vistas are being overruled by economic concerns. In part, I wish to express my own unease, but I also hope to raise awareness regarding the natural areas that make our city so unique.

My fear is that scenic vistas like Summit Drive, Ada Boulevard and Valleyview Drive will be no more unless the public reclaims its rights to the river valley.

City council will be reviewing the top-of-bank policy in September. Both council and committee discussions on the policy will be open to the public.

Linda Sloan, Councillor,

Ward 1

The Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
21-05-2007, 10:32 AM
This Letter to the Editor appeared in the Edmonton Journal today:

The Edmonton Journal Monday, May 21, 2007

I love Edmonton's river valley and ravines, but find it intimidating to have to park in front of million-dollar homes to access them.

In April 2007, the administration provided a report to city council on public access (and parking) to the river valley and ravine lands, including a comparison of access in the inner city to those in the southwest and west. The conclusions confirmed what I already knew to be true: Edmontonians are quickly losing the scenic vistas and access that are a hallmark of our city's quality of life and have helped define some of our most prestigious neighbourhoods. In 1970, council approved a top-of-bank roadway policy that would ensure open space between the North Saskatchewan river valley and ravine system and urban development, in the interest of providing public access to the river valley and ravines. The policy stipulates that, with some exceptions, all new residential areas abutting the river and ravine system be designed with a public road and minimum 7.5-metre-wide green space separating the development and the top of the river valley/ravines.

The policy states that the alignment of the top-of-bank roadway shall be established through investigation of soil and slope stability, except where in the opinion of the Municipal Planning Commission, environmental or engineering circumstances deem otherwise. Other criteria include major pipelines, utility corridors, public recreational facilities, urban service land uses or the existence of promontories or spurs of land of such a size that a cul-de-sac would be more appropriate.

In those circumstances where it is determined that a top-of-bank roadway or lane is not possible, the policy requires at least a 7.5-metre setback for public access between the top of the bank and any abutting development site.

Despite this standing policy, a variety of justifications have enabled developers to get around compliance in recent years.

Often-used arguments given for why a roadway is not feasible can include that the developer doesn't own all of the land along the bank, or that the development of a road with lots only on one side is not economical.

This brings the discussion back to the administration's recent report.

In comparing river valley frontage and access, the report found that, in neighbourhoods within the inner city, only 29 per cent of developments lacked top-of-bank roads or walkways.

In Blackmud Creek, where development is currently occurring at a frenzied pace, 35.5 per cent of developments have no top-of-bank roads or walkways and in the west end, this number reaches an astounding 68.8 per cent.

Furthermore, while there are 14 public parking lots in the city centre adjacent to the river valley, there are only two in Blackmud Creek and the west end respectively that yield public access to the river valley.

Last week, council voted on an area structure plan where the developer indicated they would attempt to achieve 13 per cent of top-of-bank roadways. In subsequent motions made to increase the roadway allocations, a motion increasing the allocation to 25 per cent was lost on a tie vote.

Having dealt with a number of these developments in council, I recognize there are economies of scale and that it is not always feasible to achieve the policy to its fullest extent in all neighbourhoods.

It saddens me though, that in recent times public access to and retention of beautiful natural vistas are being overruled by economic concerns. In part, I wish to express my own unease, but I also hope to raise awareness regarding the natural areas that make our city so unique.

My fear is that scenic vistas like Summit Drive, Ada Boulevard and Valleyview Drive will be no more unless the public reclaims its rights to the river valley.

City council will be reviewing the top-of-bank policy in September. Both council and committee discussions on the policy will be open to the public.

Linda Sloan, Councillor, Ward 1
The Edmonton Journal 2007


EdmTrekker says:

Linda Sloan is talking about the new to ensure there is a process and standard that will ensure the public have access to the River Valley in the future. Some damage has been done - but I support that the public must have the right and easy access to the River Valley in all areas of the City. The City needs to develop a strategy to guarantee that planned access will be guaranteed prior to re-zoning of an area and/or approval of a developers plan for the area. How much access?? Certainly not unfettered access, but there needs to be some standard that guarantees the right of public access. Perhaps this should be referred to EDC or a new Urban Planning Committee that looks at land use - based on a City Policy (The Rights of Public Access) and accepts/rejects/modifies on a go forward basis.

Irrespective - the River valley is Edmonton greatest asset - and everyone should have the right to walk to it, through it and have access to the waterways. I shudder to think that as the City moves toward Big Island, the banks will be ringed with homes preventing public access to the valley floor and Big Island.

lux
21-05-2007, 12:36 PM
Come on Linda Sloan! Intimidated?

That made my weekend, just for the sheer hilarity of it. People who live in million dollar homes have just about as many manners as any of us, and not parking on their street is nonsense. What does it say about your regard for people living in a $190 000 condo if you feel a greater sense of entitlement to park on their street?

I've parked in front of a million dollar home on my way to a ravine before. It is pretty much like parking in front of any other home, and with the price of real estate these days it is a more common experience than you may realize.

Sometimes, I will actually walk my dog past million dollar homes. I've even pooper-scoopered on the lawns of million dollar homes. In winter, when I feel particularly bold, I have even been known to drive by million dollar homes and enjoy their Christmas lights.

Do you careen off the road in a fit of terror when you are startled by someone driving a Jaguar?

Now that the laughter is subsiding, one of the ways to enjoy the river valley is to own a piece of the bank, and to invite other people you know to enjoy it too.

Being able to live on the river bank offers a quality of life that all Edmontonians should be able to appreciate, even if they are not in a position to own that lot themselves. There is nothing particularly sinister about having wealth in your very own neighbourhood. Indeed it is not even unpleasant. No one is talking about carving up the valley itself and running fences right down to the river. And I do not believe that a bunch of parking lots along the top of the river bank will make it any nicer for the people who do not live right there.

The public is reclaiming its right to live in neighbourhoods that offer the possibility of special homes being built, not homes governed by a bureaucratic approach to conformity that beats people's choices down to the lowest common denominator in the guise of equity.

Linda Sloan intimidated?

Rather than being jealous of (or intimidated by) your neighbours who have invested in a riverbank lot , try walking your dog down that street, and using the time-honoured civility of saying "Hello."

DebraW
25-05-2007, 08:58 AM
Council must stand up to top-of-the-river-valley developers

The Edmonton Journal
Published: Friday, May 25, 2007

Re: "Edmontonians are losing public access to river valley, ravines," by Linda Sloan, Letters, May 21.

Coun. Linda Sloan draws attention to an issue that should concern all Edmontonians.

Edmontonians cherish our green spaces and especially our river valley and ravines. Sloan is right when she states that "scenic vistas and access are a hallmark of our city's quality of life." So why are we losing access?

The answer is simple and obvious. Developers have the upper hand. They manipulate the planning department and city council to get what they want. Developers are motivated primarily by profit. One would hope that city council would provide balance by being primarily motivated by the quality of life of all Edmontonians.

It is unfortunate that our urban design warrior, Coun. Michael Phair is retiring. There is some hope, however. As Sloan notes, "city council will be reviewing the top-of-bank policy in September." Public input is invited.

Where the public has some real input is in the October municipal election, following the review.

I hope that Sloan, and candidates who share her vision, will form a majority. We must regain control of urban development from the developers and their allies in City Hall.

John Zyp, Edmonton
The Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
25-05-2007, 08:59 AM
A bad trade-off

The Edmonton Journal
Published: Friday, May 25, 2007

Hats off to Coun. Linda Sloan, who is calling for Edmonton to protect public access to and views of the river valley by preventing housing going right to the edge of the top of the river valley.

Regardless how it is done, the method must be strong enough that city council or its administrators cannot bend or break it under pressure.

One of the worst examples of the breaking of the 1970 top-of-valley guideline occurred in Sloan's ward about three years ago. It resulted in the bulldozing of a magnificent old-growth forest bordering the Edmonton Country Club off Wanyandi Road.

That land and the large floodplain below the golf course is owned by Centennial Valley Properties, which has tried for many years to have the lower area zoned for a large housing development. The City has unsuccessfully tried to buy it for park use.

It was a standoff and the forest adjoining the golf course remained untouched until parks planners proposed a pedestrian bridge across the North Saskatchewan River from Fort Edmonton to the lower end of the Centennial Valley floodplain under the city's Ribbon of Green plan.

Centennial Valley Properties gave the city an easement to allow the bridge to be built at some future date. In return, the city waived its top-of-valley development restriction, allowing the company to bulldoze the forest and build houses right to the valley's edge.

Dozens of multimillion-dollar houses are now being built there along Wanyandi Place, Wanyandi Crescent and Wize Court. The only public access is one fenced walkway on Wanyandi Place and another on Wize Court, which the homeowners are protesting as a violation of their privacy.

Don B. Thomas, Edmonton
The Edmonton Journal 2007

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RichardS
25-05-2007, 12:53 PM
...and people think we can host a WF in the river valley... ;)

Schweiktoo
27-05-2007, 02:58 PM
I have to say I'm torn cause I think we should be drawing a lot more people into the valley and really building it up even more as a rec space but I don't know if development helps or prevents that.

Edmonton's gone way further than most cities in protecting its greenspace but it's hard to know what the tipping point is.

As for the big homes along the top of the valley? Well there's always the chance that natural erosion will take care of those all alone... :)

LindseyT
27-05-2007, 04:09 PM
...and people think we can host a WF in the river valley... ;)

I'd consider a bunch of facilities with trolley access a way to provide access.


My parents house backs onto the Whitemud ravine and has zero public walkways behind it like those found in most newer districts...just forest (although there is nothing stopping anybody from walking there). It's pretty much the only reason they kept the house despite primarly working and having a DT condo in Calgary.

I suppose if we wanted to make Edmonton even more unfriendly to the people who run the business's we work at......

dwells
04-07-2007, 10:17 PM
In comparing river valley frontage and access, the report found that, in neighbourhoods within the inner city, only 29 per cent of developments lacked top-of-bank roads or walkways.

In Blackmud Creek, where development is currently occurring at a frenzied pace, 35.5 per cent of developments have no top-of-bank roads or walkways and in the west end, this number reaches an astounding 68.8 per cent.

...

Last week, council voted on an area structure plan where the developer indicated they would attempt to achieve 13 per cent of top-of-bank roadways. In subsequent motions made to increase the roadway allocations, a motion increasing the allocation to 25 per cent was lost on a tie vote.

I guess we were so busy laughing about an intimidated Sloan, that we missed the arithmetic here.

An attempt to achieve is not an assurance of compliance. Unless there is a typo, this means that 87% or more will have no top-of-bank access to ravines or river valley.