In 2008 farmers in northeast Edmonton united with the citizens of Edmonton to help protect valuable farmland within our city boundaries. This relationship grew into a successful campaign to increase the emphasis on and knowledge of our local food economy and system.
The campaign specifically worked to protect valuable local farmland, particularly in northeast Edmonton, through policies within the Municipal Development Plan (MDP). The MDP is a statutory document that provides direction for land development and urban growth in the city of Edmonton.
Local farmers and food producers, along with the citizen leaders of the Greater Edmonton Alliance (GEA), worked for months to ensure that city council agreed to two major pieces within the Municipal Development Plan (MDP).
To develop a city wide food and agricultural strategy that looked at ways to increase urban agriculture as well as mechanisms that allowed the city to determine the true value of farmland beyond its residential development potential,
To ensure the value of agriculture as well as its high soil quality were major considerations in any planning and development that would occur in Northeast Edmonton.
GEA and the farmers were successful in having these two pieces included in the MDP.
Timing is everything
FRESH, Edmonton’s Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy, was approved by City Council in November 2012. No clear information was gathered or commitment was set in that strategy to help City Council make informed decisions about the potential contribution of the agricultural land in northeast Edmonton to the financial, environmental, social and physical health of Edmonton and the Capital Region. Nor was there any information presented to show the long-term costs of residential development to the citizens of Edmonton or how the growing demand for locally produced fruits and vegetables would be met now and in the future.
At the same time that the FRESH strategy was being developed, the majority landowner in northeast Edmonton (Walton Group) was leading the development of the Area Structure Plan (ASP) for that area.
An ASP is the statutory plan that outlines land uses and establishes the general planning framework for residential, commercial, institutional and recreational areas in a previously undeveloped area. These plans also describe the number of people expected to live in the new area and how development will be staged over time.
The most recent draft of the Horse Hill Area Structure Plan (ASP) converts almost all remaining farmland to residential and commercial development. Other municipalities have successfully implemented alternate solutions to “business-as-usual sprawl”. Our City could choose to embrace such policies, and simultaneously reduce sprawl and preserve farmland. Instead, the current choice is to not even gather good, integrated information to show us the trade-offs between different decisions.
On February 25 and 26 Public Hearings regarding the fate of arguably the best farmland in the Capital Region will take place. Council appears poised to approve the Horse Hill Area Structure Plan that proposes to convert almost all the farmland in Northeast Edmonton to residential and commercial development unless we as a city speak up. But why should you care?
Citizens have asked, over and over, that urban agricultural be considered, part of “Smart Planning”. But requests for more time and more information have been ignored. Even though skilled consultants that the City could engage tell us this information could be gathered within a couple of months for a reasonable cost. So why is the pace and nature of land use being rushed through?
We believe that Councillors need both information and time to do a thoughtful analysis in order to make good decisions about this valuable and irreplaceable natural resource. Decisions that will benefit ALL citizens, now and in the future.
What can you do?
Join us to BECOME A FRIEND of the Farmers of Northeast Edmonton.
asking the Mayor and City Council to get good information about the true costs and benefits of alternative development scenarios PRIOR to approving the Horse Hill Area Structure Plan (ASP).