top of page

Wedgewood Surplus School Site Update

This past December, a proposed policy amendment for the City’s Developing Surplus School Sites Policy, C583, was brought to Executive Committee by City Administration.

 

The discussion and vote on the policy amendment was a difficult one; particularly for the Wedgewood community, most of whom felt that they were blindsided by a change that did not include any consultation. There was notable confusion from residents on what the change meant for the community, and I believe that a delay on the vote would have been invaluable for clarity and transparency. 


The report presented to the Executive Committee is linked here, along with the following attachments: Attachment 1: Policy; Attachment 2: Individual Site Status; Attachment 3: Current Affordability Ratios; Attachment 4: What We Heard Report; and Attachment 5: Policy Chart.


A recording of the committee meeting can be found here.

Despite my opposition, the policy amendment was passed by a Council majority, and I committed to following up with the community to provide additional information and clarity on the process going forward. 


 

That lack of clarity and transparency regarding development on this site has been a long-term issue for the Wedgewood community, and I hear and understand the frustrations of residents. Having this process take so long with so little information has not been helpful, nor has it served the community well. From your viewpoint, this piece of land is a well-utilized green space, and has always appeared that way, regardless of the zoning designation on paper. 


I’ve been fairly blunt in sharing my belief that the lack of information for communities with surplus school sites has been a failure of City policy regarding how we manage these sites. The time taken by school boards to decide on their own utilization of this land is far too lengthy, leading to these spaces becoming part of the communities in their undeveloped form, and a sense of mistrust and betrayal when communities learn decades later that they are actually intended for development. 


There are far better and more effective methods of managing surplus school sites — including great examples from neighbouring municipalities — and correcting this is something I have been actively working towards in my time on Council. 


On February 8, 2024, a virtual townhall was held by the Wedgewood Ravine Homeowners Association, with representation from my office, City Administration, the Wedgewood Ravine Community League, and the Wedgewood Park Committee. 


I teamed up with a representative from City Administration — Kyle Payne, the Principal Planner responsible for managing the Wedgewood surplus site going forward — to present the history of the site, what the next steps will be, and to answer the questions and concerns directly from community members.


For those who were not able to attend, a recording of the townhall can be found here. An information sheet on the presentation content can also be downloaded by clicking on the box below. 


Wedgewood Surplus Site Update March 2024
.pdf
Download PDF • 430KB

There is a general understanding within the community of how this parcel of land has progressed; beginning first as a potential school site, then a potential low-income seniors development, and now a potential medium-density residential development with an affordable housing component. 


What has been much less clear for residents is how these changes came about, what effect community engagement has had on the process, if any at all, and what these changes actually entail. 


The potential school site and remainder of the park site would have been dedicated when the neighbourhood was originally subdivided for development in the late 1980s. No further change occurred until 2009, when a number of potential school sites across the city were declared surplus by the school board; in other words, they formally advised the City that they did not plan to build schools on these sites at any point in the future. 


As outlined in the Municipal Government Act, the sites were then transferred to the municipality. The amount of land available to the City for affordable housing is limited, and these seventeen surplus sites were identified at that time as potential development locations. In 2012, eight of the surplus school sites were further specified as ideal locations for low-income seniors housing, and were consequently rezoned as RA7, or medium-density residential (otherwise known as RM16 in the new Zoning Bylaw). 


Over the next decade, varying levels of community engagement were undertaken by the City, Council directed the physical footprint of the site to shift, a formal policy on surplus site development was created, Neighbourhood Structure Plans in a number of mature communities were repealed, and interest in the Wedgewood site from seniors housing providers was virtually non-existent. 


From the standpoint of the community, this was a time where significant opposition to development was raised by residents, various options and ideas for beneficial ancillary uses were floated, but there appeared to be zero progression on development and the site remained as visible park space. 


As a result of the lack of cohesion between the community and the City, when the surplus site policy amendment came forward in December, it was clear that many residents were entirely unaware that the site had not only been identified as a location for affordable housing as far back as 2009, but that it had also been rezoned as medium-density residential for over a decade. The result was a high level of misunderstanding and mistrust around the intentions of the policy amendment and what City Administration hoped to achieve. 


To be very clear, the impetus for the policy amendment was primarily that it no longer aligned with provincial legislation or the City’s regulatory framework; two major issues that broadly affected all surplus site development in Edmonton and were not specific to Wedgewood. 


City Administration also included measures to relax the high threshold for affordable housing inclusion, from a required 50-75% of units, to no required minimum, allowing the housing market to determine what each specific development and neighbourhood could reasonably accommodate. 


A chart showing that between the previous and current school surplus site policy, there was no change in zoning or range of housing options, but there was a removal of a minimum percentage of affordable units and more flexibility for ancillary uses

I don’t think there’s a really good answer for how we got here, but I can commit to better communication going forward, both from my office and City Administration. For their part, the City team responsible for the site has expressed their intention to begin work directly with the community as soon as possible and to ensure any further action will not be decades-in-the-making. 


So what's next for the Wedgewood surplus site?


To start, City Administration is currently in the process of reviewing existing site conditions and determining which technical requirements still need to be met for residential site development to proceed. Once there is a better understanding of any site constraints, Administration will be approaching the community to discuss the 2015 motion shifting the site northeast. The plan is to have both items completed by end of spring 2024.


After discussions are held with the community, either a rezoning application will be submitted to City Council, or City Administration will be returning to Council to ask that the 2015 motion be repealed.


In the event that a rezoning is required, there will be further community engagement to support the rezoning application, and an opportunity for members of the public to speak to City Council. It’s important to note that the rezoning decision before Council would be a simple location change, and not an opportunity to downgrade the zoning.


Following any Council decisions, City Administration would then prepare the land for sale, including removal of the Municipal Reserve designation and an additional touch point with the Council Executive Committee. If the land is sold and a developer is selected for the site, the developer is required by City bylaw to engage with the community.


I know that a number of questions and concerns from Wedgewood residents remain following the townhall. I've done my best to address some of them below, and you are always welcome to connect with my office, City Administration, or Wedgewood Ravine community groups directly.

Sarah



Contact information for Sarah Hamilton: sarah.hamilton@edmonton.ca, 780-496-8120; Contact information for Kyle Payne: housing@edmonton.ca

 


Is low income housing the same as affordable housing?

Affordable housing can mean a lot of different things and it's important to clarify what it means in context of the Wedgewood site. The City is not considering any kind of social or supportive housing for the site. Affordable rentals, affordable homeownership, market rentals, and market homeownership, or any blend of those combinations, will be considered.  

This development would be what is referred to as a mixed-market approach — a majority of market rate units that are there to support a smaller number of affordable housing units. Depending on the developer and the development, it could be as low as 5% of units. The previous threshold of 50-75% of the units was not realistic.


As this happened and moved forward in Cameron Heights, has there been any analysis into the drop in home prices or longer days on market there?

Why do you feel that this is a nonstarter or such a low probability?

Where would the entrance be to this housing unit?

Ms. Hamilton, which way would you vote — to keep the park or for new development?

What do you mean by technical requirements?

Why is ‘no development’ not an option on the table?

Why is there even a push for development? Especially in complete opposition from the community.

What is the land valued at?

Is the City currently accepting developer bids on this site?

Will you respond to [the Park Advocacy group]'s statement that this proposal conflicts with provincial policy?

Why doesn't the City purchase said buildings and build affordable housing on land that is already developed versus taking green space away from our communities children?

What is the motive behind using a green space that has a huge traffic for families? Why choose this green space in a place like Edmonton wherein there is no dearth of space for building housing complexes?

Sarah, why aren’t you fighting for us? You’ve been bombarded by Wedgewood residents and residents from surrounding areas showing how negatively this would impact us.

Beyond property taxes, if property values go down what happens to the residents that have mortgages based on purchase price, not market price? Will they be compensated?

Does preservation not mean anything to the City?

When will the traffic assessment be done and shared?

Would new residents moving into this proposed development have to pay the same HOA dues that everyone else does? Would the developer have to conform to the HOA guidelines?

In the "What We Heard" report, the consultant found that the affordability requirements stipulated in the policy could not be met at three sites, including Wedgewood Heights. When the City report concludes it is not feasible, why are we choosing to continue? Is the City going to commission another analysis in order to get their desired answer?

Can the traffic impact assessment be done in the summer? The street by the park is often completely filled with vehicles from the months of May to September. A traffic impact assessment will be inaccurate in February or another winter month.

How big is the Oleksiw site and how large is their surplus school site?

Is this development being forced through under the guise of affordable housing while having little impact on supplying that housing type?

Why was the surplus school site not offered to the community for purchase when it was declared surplus?

For the higher tax bracket here in Wedgewood, how does it apply to affordable housing, and how is it fair and equitable to us?

The Oleskiw school site, despite having twice the space of ours, has been halted by public opposition. Why is Wedgewood being treated so poorly?

What is right for our neighbourhood? What do we need in our neighbourhood as citizens? As Councillor Hamilton mentioned, there will be a structure on the site, so should we be thinking about how to influence what that might be?

Why was a policy change undertaken without community consultation?

What opportunities will the community have to provide input on any development?

Could we get a list of all Council discussions and relevant committee hearing notes on this particular site?



361 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Kommentare


Die Kommentarfunktion wurde abgeschaltet.
bottom of page