Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Draper Road Revisited

Well, there are times I swear I won't revisit a topic I've written about previously because I feel like I've already said enough, or because I've just gotten frustrated and walked away from it all. Earlier this year I wrote several posts about the situation on Draper Road, and the ongoing battle between local greenhouse/landscaper Dunvegan Gardens, and the Draper Road Society/other residents. I had truly hoped this issue had been laid to rest and that it had been addressed, but it seems it's been simmering all summer, people, and so here I am writing about it again.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak with Andrew Thorne, Dunvegan Garden's direct neighbour, and someone who has been quite vocal about the situation on Draper Road. Andrew, whether he wanted it or not, has become a bit of an unofficial spokesperson, which means he has also taken a lot of the heat when things about this issue started to get hot. I think that's unfortunate as he is by no means alone in his concerns, and if you read the local Connect newspaper (which I do, faithfully, as it might be a weekly paper but I find it the most interesting, comprehensive, and reliable source of news in Fort Mac) you know that he is backed by many residents on Draper Road.

So, the issue is this : there are people on Draper Road who are in contravention of zoning bylaws and are running industrial businesses on property that is not zoned for such use. There may be some dissension about this from those individuals, but the city has been quite clear - the zoning bylaws do not allow for industrial businesses on these properties. There have been stop orders issued, and for a time there were bylaw officers stopping every industrial-appearing vehicle heading down Draper. There has been a lot of talk, and some hearings at city hall. What it all boils down to is this - a decision has been made, and industrial operations are to cease. I have the most recent decision in front of me, in fact, and it's quite clear. So, the decision has been made - but what about the enforcement of it?

It seems that city council has shown great support for the Draper Road residents, and they have been on board since the beginning, acknowledging that the zoning does not allow for industrial use. Unfortunately this has not translated well into enforcement, however. It appears that a lack of experience in these situations has led to a bit of an impasse, a situation in which no one quite knows how and when to enforce the bylaws. The enforcement was bumped up earlier this summer with the fairly steady presence of peace officers, but this dropped off and the status quo returned, with heavy truck traffic in it's wake. This has understandably led to a great deal of frustration on the part of the residents, and as with any neighbour dispute there is fear that this could all lead to property damage and further escalation of the situation (if anyone has ever experienced a neighbour dispute they know it can get nasty when tempers flare - I've witnessed it first hand). The frustration the residents feel is directed not only towards those who are pursuing industrial activities on Draper Road but also at the municipality, which seems to be a bit "deer in the headlights" over the whole thing. I suppose it's because it's the first time a situation of this magnitude has arisen - but it's unlikely to be the last as the city grows, and that to me is the key issue. The municipality needs to show leadership and control, and if necessary they need to consult with other cities to see how similar issues have been handled elsewhere. This is a learning experience for those within the municipality, but I think the Draper Road residents have been frustrated by being the guinea pigs caught in this learning curve.

Now, let me be clear on a few things. I LIKE Dunvegan Gardens, and I think they are very valuable in our community. I think they provide tremendous services to our city, and I think they are a business that will help us as we grow in the future. Regardless of my personal feelings, though, the law states that they cannot run an industrial operation on their property, and just like everyone else they need to comply with the law. I also happen to be a big fan of the RMWB, and I have great faith in them - but in this situation I think they have been a bit flummoxed as to the steps to manage it properly. I know that they will sort it all out, and that Dunvegan Gardens will find a way to continue to operate and be in compliance with the zoning bylaws (while still offering those valuable services). I just think this has been a painful episode in the growth of our city, especially so for the Draper Road residents, Dunvegan Gardens, and the RMWB. The sooner it is put behind us, and the sooner it is resolved, the sooner we can all look ahead.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the update. I was wondering what came out of the dispute. Kind of a shame that it was not solved.

    I've started a discussion about City's and Dunvegan's role in this