Kingswood residents are supporting the decision by city council to expropriate 17.9 acres of land in their area for the development of a park.
Council during their April 1 meeting announced the city would be formally starting the process of expropriating land from Canterra Developments. Costs of the process have yet to be released. The two have publicly battled over the lands in the Kingswood area for nearly a decade with the main point of contention being the location of a central park and school site, where Canterra feared a high school might be built.
Mayor Cathy Heron said in a previous interview it was unfair for Kingswood residents not to have a park in their area.
With the expropriation and compensation process expected to last months or possibly years, the Gazette reached out to some Kingswood residents to ask their opinion.
Sam Grewal, who recently moved into the Kingswood area, said he wanted to know what the city plans to do but felt the area could use a park.
“If there are not enough parks around in the area then I think it is worth (it) to get it because it’s for the future,” he said. “It’s not today’s need but maybe it is a future need for the coming generation. I think it would be worth it.”
Kaila Wirth, who lives along Kingsmead with her parents, welcomed the idea of a park.
“The field behind (here) is a very nice area and if it was a park I think it would promote dogs walking back there and kids going to play as opposed to more houses or at one point apparently they were talking about building a school back there,” she said. “People don’t really want to live right by a school. It would kind of diminish the worth of the land. But I think a park would be a better idea.”
While she doesn’t pay property taxes, Wirth said she understands the cost of living in St. Albert and believes residents would be upset if taxpayers had to pay more in order to get a park.
“But I do think that a park is a better option to be built there as opposed to more houses or a school,” she added.
Fellow resident Maissoun Tarrabain also supported the idea of a park and preferred that option over a high school.
“I don’t think any of the people who live here wants that, but a park is a good idea,” she said. “There are lots of little kids. It’s a family community here.”
While Tarrabain supported seeing a park being brought in, she wasn’t sure how she would feel about it if taxes have to go up to pay for it.
“We have Servus Place and that was a good idea,” she added. “They put higher taxes but it was good for the community. But this one, I don’t know.”
Development in Kingswood first began in 1986 but it stalled when Canterra voiced concerns over a connector road and the possibility of a high school being built on land that is supposed to be handed over to the city at some point as municipal reserve.
Ryan Brown, vice-president and general manager of Canterra, told the Gazette last week the company plans to challenge the city’s expropriation efforts.
He said in 2007 the city announced its intention to put a regional high school in Kingswood, which would have led to higher traffic volumes.
He said Canterra did not co-operate with the city by turning over land it owes the municipality “in order to protect the neighbourhood.”
The city report that accompanied council’s decision to begin expropriating the land noted costs could vary significantly and administration would provide further advice on costs at a later stage in the proceedings.
In September 2012, the city released a report with an estimate on the land costs. The total assessed value for the park and school site came in at $27 million at that time.
Heron said the actual cost would be much lower, since the city is only going for one specific piece of land.