Recently there has been some controversy regarding Dunvegan Gardens, a local greenhouse and landscaping business. Dunvegan has been a fixture in the city for many years, several of those years primarily in their previous location on Gregoire Drive. A couple of years ago, though, Dunvegan closed the Gregoire store to concentrate their business at their larger location on Draper Road. This move has allowed them to expand their business and offer even more goods and services to the community. I think it has been a positive move in many ways for both the business and the city, but it seems that not everyone agrees.
If you've lived here for any length of time you've probably been to Dunvegan. It's where many residents have been getting their floral hanging baskets, tropical plants, and pre-started vegetables and flowers for years. They also have a large selection of gifts, garden needs, and seeds. At Christmas they sell live trees and ornaments. They work with schools to run fundraising projects for things like class trips. Dunvegan is also well known for being a strong contributor to the community, donating to local events and charities, and has also been responsible for many of the beautification projects in the city. There is no doubt that this is an important community business, and one that is supported by many city residents.
The current issue is that other residents on Draper Road, and one in particular, have determined that Dunvegan's expansion has created problems in the area. They object to Dunvegan storing top soil on the property, and they object to the amount of traffic the business has created (especially business equipment traffic, which they claim starts very early in the morning). The area is apparently zoned for residential and small holdings, and while Dunvegan's greenhouse constitutes a small holding the other residents feel they are contravening zoning by running a fairly large-scale landscaping business.
I am not without sympathy for the other residents of Draper Road. I imagine the noise level and traffic can be frustrating. I suspect they bought on Draper hoping for a peaceful existence and find that this business intrudes on that life. However, I must say that I think Fort McMurray desperately needs Dunvegan Gardens, and that the business they are running is essential to this city. I also suspect many of those residents complaining have in the past purchased landscaping supplies, garden plants, or other items from Dunvegan and have thus contributed to keeping open a business they are now trying to cripple. And losing the landscaping end of the business would cripple Dunvegan. They might limp along for awhile, but if their profits decline enough they may of course eventually decide to close the business - and then where would we buy our garden things? Would we buy frost-bitten half-dead plants from Canadian Tire? Perhaps drive 4 and 1/2 hours to buy our flowers? Where would all those people moving into brand new homes purchase their landscaping supplies? Would they be paying to truck them in from other towns and cities? These are not enticing prospects. Losing a local business is always a blow, but the loss of Dunvegan Gardens would be enormously detrimental to the city.
I'd like to think that the unhappy residents of Draper and Dunvegan can come to some sort of settlement. Perhaps they can address the early-hours noise issue. Perhaps they can achieve some form of compromise. I fear, though, that sides have become entrenched and that this fight could become nasty. As evidence of the potential for nastiness I cite what occurred at Dunvegan's recent Easter Egg Hunt, which was attended not only by area children but also by bylaw enforcement and the RCMP when someone called to complain. If emotions have become so deep that someone will complain about what can only be described as a very positive community-minded event then I wonder if compromise can ever be found. That is incredibly unfortunate in my opinion as I don't think anyone can argue that the city would be better off without Dunvegan Gardens - even those other residents of Draper Road. I truly hope that both sides can attempt to find a way to address the issues in a way that allows Dunvegan to continue to operate. In the final analysis if compromise cannot be found then the biggest losers aren't going to be the Draper Road residents or Dunvegan Gardens - it will be the community as a whole.
Fort McMurray Today Article
Save Dunvegan Gardens Facebook Page
May 01, 2011
Please note - A reader has commented on this blog post, and I have chosen to respond to those comments here : Dunvegan Disturbance, Revisited