Holyrood development decision delayed until after Edmonton city election

A controversial development proposed for Edmonton's Holyrood neighbourhood has been shelved until after the October municipal election.

'This is about putting 1,200 units immediately on top of an LRT station ... that's smart urban planning'

Simon O'Byrne, who represents Regency Developments, talks to councillors at the public hearing Monday night. (CBC)

A controversial development proposed for Edmonton's Holyrood neighbourhood has been shelved until after the October municipal election.

The project was to be discussed at a public hearing on Monday, but a jam-packed city council agenda meant councillors ran out of time to discuss the proposed rezoning of the site and it was pushed back to the next hearing date in November.

People who came to speak on the issue waited until 10:30 p.m. to learn the issue would not be heard until November. A public hearing will be held at that time solely to deal only with this single item.

A total of 44 people registered to speak to council about the redevelopment of Holyrood Gardens. Of those, 29 were opposed to the development, mostly because of its size and the increased traffic it would bring to the neighbourhood.

"Most residents in Holyrood want to see development on this site," said resident Euan Stuart, "but not at the expense of forcing seniors or families out of the area."

A developer wants to build a combination of seven medium- and high-rise buildings at the Holyrood Gardens site in southeast Edmonton. (City of Edmonton)

The proposed development includes seven buildings ranging from six to 22 storeys tall, with a total of up to 1,200 living units and retail space on the ground floor.

This development is proposed for 85th Street between 90th Avenue and 95th Avenue, near a planned stop on the future Valley Line LRT.

Since the site is in a neighbourhood of primarily single-family homes, some of the buildings will be "looming over peoples' backyards" said Stuart.

"There's no imagination in here," he said. "All this is, is bigger. This is just more."

Developer in race against LRT construction

This proposed development is the main issue in the upcoming civic election for Stuart.

"My children walk along a route that I fear is going to be greatly impacted by the traffic increases on 93rd Avenue," he said. "There's not much more dear to my heart than the safety of my children."

The delay could prove costly for Regency Developments, according to Simon O'Byrne, who represents the company.

Underground work involving the laying of drainage and water pipes will cost the developer more than $1 million, said O'Byrne. That work needs to be completed before March 2018 when TransEd takes over the area to begin work on the new LRT station.

Holyrood residents sat through more than eight hours of a public hearing Monday, waiting for city councillors to discuss a proposed development in their neighbourhood. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

Regency will come back to council on Wednesday morning to discuss how to get that work done on schedule without a decision on the rezoning approval before November.

Development of the LRT is a priority for the city. And O'Byrne sees the Holyrood Gardens development as a good fit with the LRT plan. 

"This is about putting 1,200 units immediately on top of an LRT station and we think that's smart urban planning," he said.

'This would be a big change'

Councillors could have continued the public hearing on the project Thursday.

However, there seemed to be some games being played at the hearing to make sure that didn't happen, said Coun. Michael Oshry, who is not seeking re-election in Ward 5.

"This would be a big change to that neighbourhood, so whenever there's a big change to a neighbourhood, it's sometimes controversial," said Oshry.

"Sometimes people are looking holistically at what's best for the whole city, and some people are looking at what residents in local neighbourhood's want," he said.

Any vote on the Holyrood rezoning will be a close one, Oshry said, adding this council in general has approved a lot of developments.

With candidate nomination day on Sept. 18, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said there's no appetite to discuss this proposal once election campaigns are in full swing.