The Community League has become aware of the City’s plan to rezone the Oleskiw surplus school site (1.46 ha), so that it may be sold as a residential development.  They are proposing three options: Residential Mixed Dwelling, Row Housing, or Low Rise Apartment Housing.  Any of these options could result in housing that is 3-5 stories high.  WWWCC Community League board members have already been hearing from community members that they are concerned with these options and would like to retain the land as recreation space or green space for the community.  The WWWCCCL Board will see how the plans impact the park rejuvenation projects as well and work with our Neighbourhood Resource Coordinator and City Project Manager to ensure the best outcome for these plans.

It is our job to help keep you informed as community members, and it is suggested to remain  engaged with the City through their public engagement survey and website.  WWWCCCL has until the end of day on March 16, 2021, to provide as much feedback from as many of our concerned residents as possible.

No matter what your opinion may be on the proposed rezones, we encourage all interested residents of the WWWCC Community to:

  1. Take the survey that is posted at the Oleskiw Park Engage Edmonton webpage.  You can select your recommendation for one of the three residential developments, none of them, or add in a different preference.
  2. Please also consider sending a copy of your comments to:
    • Our Ward 5 City Councillor: Sara Hamilton (sarah.hamilton@edmonton.ca)
    • Please also consider cc’ing the WWWCCCL Community League (hallrental@wwwcccl.com) so that we can be made aware of your concerns to ensure we capture them in our conversations with City Administration.

The WWWCCCL Board will continue to update this site as we obtain answers to the questions below that we have asked City Administration.

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 Upon review of the Oleskiw Surplus School Site Zoning proposal, the WWWCCCL Board has reviewed the numbers and have made the following observations:

  1. The rezoning of 1.46 ha of Oleskiw Park would result in a 17% reduction of Oleskiw’s current parkland.
  2. The approval of this rezoning has a high potential to move the community below minimum City parkland targets for new neighbourhoods if new approved City infill goals are reached
  3. If this parkland is sold for residential uses, the Oleskiw Park natural area, which has been assigned a “high” environmental sensitivity score by the City, will be negatively impacted.  Impacts potentially include:
    • Habitat loss and removal of community tree canopy;
    • Loss of a wind hardened tree edge and damage to tree roots resulting in additional die back into the remaining southern portion of the natural area; and
    • Loss of multiple ecosystem services that the community currently received from the forest patches within the zoning area.
  4. The Board is currently unclear about certain aspects of the consultation process and has asked for clarification on:
  • Outstanding community needs assessment guidelines and reports and
  • Clarification request on timeline and when the community can provide alternative zoning suggestions that may be more aligned with community needs.  

The supporting research for these observations is provided below.  We hope community members will find this analysis useful as they review the proposed rezoning application.  

Observation 1: The rezoning of 1.46 ha would result in a 17% reduction to the community’s current park space

  • Oleskiw Park is currently zoned “AP” (Public Parks zone).  The purpose of the AP Zone is “to provide an area of public land for active and passive recreational uses, and allow for an opportunity for public schools.
  • Oleskiw Park (8.5 ha) is the only parkland site within Oleskiw (6.4% of the neighbourhood)

Observation 2: The approval of this rezoning has the potential to move the community below minimum parkland targets for new neighbourhoods if new approved City infill goals are reached

  • With the current 8.5 ha park site, Oleskiw currently has 2.8 ha of parkland per 1000 people
  • This meets the City of Edmonton’s parkland targets for new neighbourhoods of “A minimum target of 2.0 hectares of parkland/1000 people
  • However, the City’s new Municipal Development Plan (The City Plan, approved December 2020) has: 
    • increased its former 25% infill goal to one where “50% of net new units [will be] added through infill city-wide” and 
    • set the goal that “600,000 additional residents will be welcomed into the redeveloping area” (of which our community is included)
  • With a moderate 25% increase in population due to future infill in our community, this will reduce Oleskiw’s parkland supply to less than 1.9 hectares of parkland/1000 people by converting the proposed 1.46 ha of parkland to residential
  • If our population is increased by 50%, this will reduce Oleskiw’s parkland supply to less than 1.6 hectares of parkland/1000 people

WWWCCCL Board questions for City Administration due to Observation 2:

  • Given that:
    • Densities are expected to significantly increase in established areas (such as WWWCCC) as the City aims to attract 2 million residents; 
    • The City Plan indicates the City is to “Improve [not remove] local open space and public amenities to support density increases” (policy 2.2.1.2); 
    • Use of sale proceeds from a surplus school site are regulated by City Policy C468A and are to be used in the same geographic area; and that
    • The City Plan also commits to “Promote gathering spaces for culture, sports, recreation and entertainment opportunities to support both formal and informal uses” (policy 2.3.3).
  • The Wolf Willow Westridge Country Club Community League (WWWCCCL) Board has the following questions:
    • What are the direct benefits to the WWWCCL community to sell existing parkland that will be difficult to replace in the future as community demand increases due to population growth?
    • Given that all land within the WWWCC community is currently developed, what is the plan to ensure that the funds from the sale of this parkland will be invested back into the WWWCC community?
    • It is noted in the zoning proposal information that “In November 2017, the site was declared surplus to civic needs.” Please outline what metrics were used to determine that this site is surplus to civic needs. 
    • Now that City Council has approved the City Plan, has there been a comprehensive analysis around how the sale of this parkland will support the strategic goals of the City Plan and Edmonton’s new Green Network Strategy (Breathe)?  Please provide the full results of this analysis so we can post on our community website.
    • We are currently undergoing a Park Rejuvenation Plan with new elements to be proposed that may propose expansion into areas such as that proposed for rezoning.  How can the community’s parks rejuvenation plans be considered with respect to this, and any future, zoning application? 

Observation 3: If this parkland is sold for residential uses, the Oleskiw Park natural area, which has been assigned a “high” environmental sensitivity score by the City, will be negatively impacted

  • According to the City-wide Natural Area Management Plan (page 64-65), the largest patch of forest that covers the northern portion of Oleskiw Park is managed by the City as a natural area (Natural Area NW638, 3.1 hectares)
  • The City has mapped this natural area as having “High” Environmental Sensitivity
  • The Oleskiw Park Natural Area is the community’s only non-river valley treestand.  This makes it ecologically unique in the WWWCC community (and potentially west Edmonton) and provides tableland habitat for local wildlife including song birds, woodpeckers, raptors, and small to medium mammals. 
  • The City’s Natural Connections Strategic Plan outlines that tableland natural areas, like the Oleskiw Park natural area, is one of relatively few tableland natural areas that remain in Edmonton (with only 8% of all City tableland natural areas being protected by the City)
  • This “stepping stone” habitat patch was first protected in the 1970’s with the zoning of the park site as “AP”, with a portion of it falling within the proposed zoning application.
  • Upon speaking to a professional biologist (P. Biol.), the removal of the southern portion of this natural area would result in:
    • Habitat loss and removal of community tree canopy;
    • Loss of a wind hardened tree edge and damage to tree roots resulting in additional die back into the remaining southern portion of the natural area; and
    • Loss of multiple ecosystem services that the community currently receives from the forest patches within the zoning area including stormwater filtration, carbon dioxide removal and storage, heat island mitigation, air quality improvements, etc.
  • There is also a tree stand south of the Oleskiw Park Natural Area that would need to be removed for residential development.  In addition to the benefits outlined above, we have reports of surrounding residents seeing deer using this portion of Oleskiw Park’s forest.

WWWCCCL Board questions for City Administration due to Observation 3:

  • In 2007 the City introduced the Natural Area (NA) zone to protect City managed Natural Areas; 
  • The City Plan has a target to plant 2 million trees and the Urban Forest Management Plan has the goal to increase the City’s tree canopy to 20%;  
  • The City is to collect the value of all removed trees from City land (as defined under Equitable Compensation in the Corporate Tree Management Policy, Policy C456C);
  • The YegTreeMap estimates that the total ecosystem benefits provided by City boulevard trees results a savings of $30,892,648 pr year and provides 182,259,390 lbs of carbon dioxide storage; and
  • The City Plan and the City’s Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Strategy prioritizes initiatives that work to abate climate change and achieve certain carbon targets;  
  • The Wolf Willow Westridge Country Club Community League (WWWCCCL) Board has the following questions:
  • Under this zoning application, is there the opportunity to present the community with the option to consider the rezoning the Oleskiw Park Natural Area (including its southern boundary currently within the proposed rezoning area) from AP to NA to appropriately represent how it is to be managed?
  • How many trees will the City need to replant elsewhere in order to offset the potential forest loss related to this rezoning application and will the City commit to planting such trees within the WWWCC community?  If not, how will this, and the loss of 1.46 ha of parkland affect the WWWCC community’s ability to reach a 20% tree canopy goal?
  • What is the assessed value of all of the Oleskiw Park trees should they need to be removed to accommodate full development of the proposed rezoning area?
  • What is the value of ecosystem benefits that the Oleskiw Park forests provide to the WWWCC community?  How much in ecosystem services will be lost to the community, and the City, should the forests within the zoning area be removed? 
  • Has there been consideration for utilizing the Oleskiw Park surplus school site for naturalization activities which would provide carbon sequestration and climate resilience benefits to the community and help achieve the City Plan’s “Greening as we Grow” objective?

Observation 4: The WWWCCCL Board is unclear about certain aspects of the consultation process and will ask for clarification.  In particular,

  • The Urban Parks Management Plan (UPMP) states: “The City may sell parkland when it is no longer needed for parkland purposes. Asset Management and Public Works together with Community Services jointly make the business case decision to sell or retain parkland with input from the community.”
    • Can the community please receive a copy of the current draft of the business case for posting to the WWWCCCL website to enable community members to review?
    • In addition, when will the community have the opportunity to provide input into the business case that is being developed specifically to the sale of the Oleskiw Park surplus school site?  Currently, the consultation is limited to reviewing potential zoning and does not speak to the commitment to consult about whether the land should be sold or not.  It seems that should be the first step prior to reviewing potential zoning options.
  • The UPMP states with respect to the surplus of parkland in existing neighbourhoods that “A surplus guideline has been developed for those circumstances.”  
    • Can the community please receive a copy of this guideline for our review and posting to the WWWCCCL website?
  • The UPMP also states: “A recreational community needs assessment is required to determine if a parcel may be surplus to needs. The public good must be considered in all surplus decision making.”
    • Can the community please receive a copy of the recreational community needs assessment prepared for the Oleskiw Park site for our review and posting to the WWWCCCL website?  We would like to understand how the public good was considered in this surplus decision.
  • The timeline on the Oleskiw Surplus School Site Zoning proposal website only mentions four steps in the consultation timeline: 1) Pre-application notification, 2) Pre-application engagement, 3) What we heard report, and 4) LDA submission.
    • At what point will the community have the opportunity to submit suggestions to refine the proposal?  
    • In addition, given that Oleskiw Park is currently zoned AP, is it fair to assume there is the ability to change the proposed boundary of the rezoning application based on community feedback on community needs and review of the environmental impact of the proposal?

Footnotes:

1-Population of Oleskiw based on 2012 City of Edmonton Municipal census = 2994

2-Urban Parks Management Plan (accessed February 20, 2021)