The City of Red Deer-owned land, with the scouting cabin, that’s being considered for possible rezoning for a women’s shelter expansion on 47th Avenue. (Advocate file photo).

Red Deer city council wants answers before re-zoning for women’s shelter expansion

Is the creek escarpment stable enough for construction?

Too many environmental, design and historical questions surround a proposed women’s shelter expansion, says Red Deer city council, which tabled rezoning discussions until answers are found.

The implications of building on a creek escarpment that also might contain some infill at 5321-47th Ave. raised some concerns during Monday’s city council meeting.

City council was told a Waskasoo Creek escarpment cuts through the middle of this city-owned piece of land, which officials from the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter next door are looking as possible property for an expansion.

But Planning Services director Tara Lodewyk noted the Municipal Government Act doesn’t prohibit constructing on an escarpment, only stipulates that additional information is needed to determine its stability.

She added any needed engineering studies would be up to the applicant to pay for and instigate.

Coun. Michael Dawe knows from historic records that some infill was added to the creek bank on the east side of a cabin-like scout hut from 1937 that sits on the property. He isn’t sure how much, but Dawe said that would have to be determined before any kind of building was done.

Councillors questioned the height of the proposed and yet unfinalized project that would increase the size of the women’s shelter from 16 to 36 rooms and add a commercial bay for a related business at street level.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes noted the proposal was reduced to four storeys from a previous six, and wondered what nearby property owners think about this.

Coun. Buck Buchanan questioned the amount of additional traffic this expansion would generate, since Central Middle School and the alternative schools are already nearby.

Coun. Frank Wong wondered if a future business that sets up in the commercial bay proposed for the street level of the expansion would pay city taxes? Many for-profit businesses don’t pay tax if they are located within a non-profit, said Wong, who hopes that wouldn’t be the case here.

Regarding the scout hut that occupies a corner of the property: Dawe said the hut contains a plaque recognizing a visit from Canada’s then Chief Scout, Lord Tweedsmuir of Elsfield, embedded in the fireplace mantle.

He questioned city study results that showed both the structural integrity and historic value of the cabin were low.

Given all the unknowns around the property rezoning, Wyntjes suggested city staff should go back to area property owners for more consultations.

The majority of city councillors agreed. Council also wants more answers from city administrators on the variety of issues raised before discussing whether the property containing the scout hut should be rezoned to a Direct Control district from an environmental reserve.

The matter is to return to council in eight weeks.

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