Edmonton

Major urban development gets flak from Strathcona County residents

Strathcona County residents were out in force Tuesday evening for a public hearing on a concept plan for an urban development proposed for the region.

Up to 79,000 people could live in the Bremner development

About 150 people turned out for a public hearing Tuesday on the Bremner Area Project. (Anna McMillan/CBC)

Strathcona County residents were out in force Tuesday evening for a public hearing on a concept plan for an urban development proposed for the region.

The Bremner Area Project would be developed on a section of land east of Highway 21 and north of Highway 16. Up to 79,000 people could live there after the 39-year build is complete.

County council endorsed Bremner in 2016 as the region's next area for urban development. The relatively dense development would help deal with an expanding population in Strathcona County, which is expected to grow by 40,000 to 60,000 people by 2044, the county website says.

Tuesday's hearing at the Strathcona County Community Centre was attended by about 150 people — many of whom vehemently opposed the area concept plan.

Residents repeatedly brought up one major point of contention: the community would be built on farmland.

At the hearing, resident Lois Gordon told the county's mayor and councillors it's their responsibility to be stewards for the region's agricultural land.

"Bremner's prime farmland should never have been considered for urban development," said Gordon, who owns farmland just north of the boundaries of the proposed development.

(Strathcona County)

Gordon said she believes the agricultural impact assessment that was done for the project has been ignored. She said council should reject the area concept plan, as it threatens agricultural sustainability.

"Canada is one of the few countries left that ... has enough excess food production to export," Gordon told CBC News.

"We need to protect what we've got. We have class one and two soil. And it is being recognized as being important, as being something that the whole region can capitalize on and say 'we've got the good soil here. We can make our agricultural industry of global importance.'"

She and other community members urged council to hold a plebiscite for the project.

Trenton Dowling's family has owned farmland that sits in the proposal's footprint for 106 years.

He said he's in favour of the project — except for one part. The eastern boundary of the development shifted as the proposal evolved, intersecting with the family's property.

"They've basically split our land into two sections," Dowling said. "So we have our home quarter where we live that will be part of Bremner and two sections of our farmland that we have access to right now we will no longer have access to and be able to farm."

Dowling said he'd like to see the boundary return to its original place, so his family's entire property is included in the project's footprint.

"It's more financially beneficial to us to have it as part of the Bremner development than to not include it," he said. "It has the potential for ... great impact on my family for generations to come if it is included in development."

The plan will be brought back to council in July if it is approved by the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board.

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