Edmonton Votes 2017: Growing pains a reality for residents of southwest Ward 9

Ward 9, in southwest Edmonton, has more than 53,000 eligible voters.

Fast-growing Ward 9 struggles with transportation, infrastructure pressures

Ward 9 candidate Rob Agostinis talked to Deanne Stein Hasinoff while campaigning in Brander Gardens last month. (CBC)

Brander Gardens is an affluent neighbourhood at the tip of the most affluent ward in Edmonton.

Fort Edmonton Park is nearby. So is a particularly idyllic part of the North Saskatchewan River valley.

And it's where Ward 9 candidate Rob Agostinis is hearing frustration about city council's decision to allow the construction of a controversial infill project: six four-storey luxury condominiums that will overlook the river valley.

Out door-knocking on a Sunday afternoon, Agostinis got quizzed on his views about development by Deanne Stein Hasinoff and her husband Dave Hasinoff.

Stein Hasinoff told the candidate that councillors ignored the city's own policy on preserving river valley access when they approved the project in August 2016.

She feels that council -- and outgoing Coun. Bryan Anderson -- didn't listen to the concerns of residents who wanted to preserve access to the river valley.

Stein Hasinoff doesn't think her neighbourhood is unique.

"Every neighbourhood you talk to will say they're basically ignored," she tells Agostinis. "The developer is favoured. The developer has access to the councillors. The developer knows the process."

Agostinis has heard concerns before about how the community's concerns haven't been heard.

He also wants the city to ask neighbourhoods what they want done with surplus schools sites, instead of reacting to recommendations from city administrators.

"There's more of a buy-in when that happens," he tells Stein Hasinoff and her husband.

Speaking 'developer'

Agostinis, a physician, is one of five candidates running to succeed Anderson, who is retiring after 19 years on council.

Marketing specialist Mark Hope, realtor Sandy Pon, civil engineer Tim Cartmell and business owner Payman Parseyan are also on the ballot.

At a public forum Wednesday night, Cartmell said part of the problem with infill developments is that planners and developers speak the same language and it takes ordinary citizens months to catch up.

"A community group or a community representative needs to learn how to talk 'developer' to get into that echo chamber, to have that conversation," he said.

"The responsibility is on the councillor to bring that information to the community in a way that is easily understood so you don't need to learn to be a developer to talk to a developer."

Terwillegar Drive expansion

Ward 9 is one of the fastest growing parts of Edmonton, with the highest percentage of children in kindergarten through Grade 6 (nearly seven per cent).

Terwillegar Drive, a key route through the area, needs to be widened to handle the large volumes of traffic.

At the public forum, a resident asked all five candidates what they would do over the next five years to turn the road into a freeway.

Cartmell said the first step is for the city to decide that the project will benefit the entire city so it will get funding from other levels of government.

"That starts with making Terwillegar Drive a priority for the city which then makes it a priority for the province," he said.

Both Hope and Parseyan think that five years is too short amount of time to get the project completed.

"If you can look at a seven to eight-year window, it's likely very doable," Parseyan said.

Pon said the city has already set aside some funding for the expansion. If elected to council, she vowed to get it done within the next five years.

2016 municipal census statistics

Population: 87,038

Eligible voters: 53,435

Owns home: 64.8%

Rents home: 13.4%

Lived there five years or more: 34.6%

Mainly drives to work: 78.6%

Takes transit to work: 10.8%

Main language other than English: Mandarin (4.34%)

Income under $30,000: 2.85%

Income $60,000 to $100,000: 12.9%

Children in preschool: 5.1%

Children from kindergarten to Grade 6: 6.9%

Interesting statistics: Ward 9 has the highest percentage of households earning more than $250,000 a year in the city (4.3%) and the highest percentage of children from kindergarten to Grade 6 (6.9%)

Neighbourhoods include: Brookside, Brander Gardens, Ramsay Heights, Brookside, Bulyea Heights, Rhatigan Ridge, Falconer Heights, Henderson Estates, Carter Crest, Ogilvie Ridge, Haddow, Leger, Hodgson, Terwillegar Towne, Magrath Heights, Mactaggart, Windermere, Ambleside, Keswick, Paisley, Graydon Hill, MacEwan, Rutherford, Heritage Valley area, Creekwood Chappelle, Glendridding Heights

Five candidates: Rob Agostinis, Tim Cartmell, Mark Hope, Payman Parseyan, Sandy Pon

CBC Edmonton's candidate survey responses:

Rob Agostinis, 56, has lived in Edmonton 31 years

Family: married, one child

Credentials:  physician; B.Med.Sc., MD, FRCPC

Top issues: complete Terwillegar Drive; twin Rabbit Hill Road, Ellerslie Road;add more lanes to Anthony Henday; deal with infill and surplus school sites; affordable housing and recreation facilities

City's biggest challenge: long-term city plan; keeping highly qualified individuals from local post-secondary schools

Tim Cartmell, 51, has lived his whole life in Edmonton

Family: married with three children

Credentials: owner and operator of Lemtra Projects; professional engineer; master's in engineering, University of Alberta

Top issues: improve transportation system; optimize use of tax dollars; re-evaluate infill housing plans

City's biggest challenge: accountability of spending on projects or developments that are over-cost, over-time, poorly planned or not meeting expectations

Mark Hope , 31, has lived in Edmonton for six years

Family: married, one child

Credentials: marketing coordinator, attended NAIT for NAIT for Business Administration - Marketing

Top three issues: Communication with the public. Turning Terwillegar Drive into a freeway starting with 40th Avenue, and improving alternative means of transport such as LRT and bus services.

City's biggest challenge: I want to eliminate the possibility of ethical dilemmas by not allowing donations from developers, unions, or anyone else who will require a decision by council within the term.  I am not taking this sort of donation on principle.

Payman Parseyan, 28, has lived 19 years in Edmonton

Family: single

Credentials: former law enforcement officer, now oil and gas project manager/consultant; restaurant owner; Realtor; three certificates, working on a B.A. at the University of Alberta 

Top issues: finish Terwillegar Drive, Ellerslie Road, James Mowatt Trail and twin Rabbit Hill Road; transit; infrastructure to cope with rapid growth

City's biggest challenge: Transit. LRT needs to be elevated above street level. Consider public-private partnerships in transit services

Sandy Pon, 52, has lived in Edmonton for 41 years

Family: two children

Credentials: real estate agent, business owner; diploma in fashion merchandising; completing BA in political economy

Top issues: roadways and transit — need more lanes and express buses; seniors' housing and community amenities; better planning and budget priorities

City's biggest challenge: approach to projects, planning and budgeting needs improved public consultation

Ward issues:

With files from the CBC's Natasha Riebe