South Edmonton residents voice concerns with low-income housing proposal in Keheewin

Dozens of residents came to a public hearing Tuesday to voice their opposition to Edmonton city council on low-income housing units proposed in the Keheewin neighbourhood.

The city wants to build on a vacant site next to Keheewin School, an elementary school, but residents have held protests, saying the up to 135 residential units proposed is too much and too close to the school.

“This will decide whether we support it, kill it, or refer it back to tweak it,” Councillor Michael Walters said. “So, like every other public hearing, we all go in with an open mind.

“It’s exciting to hear from citizens who are engaged and we’ll find out today where we end up with this project.”

The site was originally intended for a junior high, but became a surplus site in 2009.

The land is up for rezoning. It’s earmarked as affordable housing and would be built by Capital Region Housing.

Councillor Scott McKeen wants to see affordable housing built as much as possible, and he met with a few of Keheewin residents leading up to this public hearing. He said they’ve asked that the orientation of the project shift away from the school that exists.

“There was an argument that they re-orient the project. We’ll ask those questions. Re-orienting it would have the project stretch further on to the field but would open up some gaps around the school. And that seemed to be something that they were quite keen on,” McKeen said.

Walters said the design plan has be “re-oriented five times” since he’s been on council.

“City staff have worked really hard in the community to shape the project,” he said. “Whether the arguments today in favour or against win the day, we’ll see in a few hours.”

McKeen says the people he’s spoken with from the community are worried that the two low-rise apartment buildings and a mix of row housing, proposed near 2010 105 Street,  is only 27 metres away from the school.

“I guess I’m a little bit skeptical that an apartment building within 27 metres of a school causes some harm to the kids or the school. I just don’t quite get it,” McKeen said. “I’m not saying they’re wrong, and I said that to them yesterday: ‘I think you’re going to bring some evidence or argument to that to help me.’”

McKeen said he would also ask why 50 units were removed from the design plan as a result of negotiations with concerned neighbours. He says that means 50 families who will need the housing won’t get it.

“I’m just concerned that every time we do one of these projects, if we’re pulling units out as an offer to the community to calm things down a little bit, that might be just really false economics.”

The public hearing meeting started at 1:30 p.m., with this item last on its list. It’s expected to continue for a number of hours.

— More to come… 

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