By Trevor Busch
While in support of the idea, the Town of Taber intends to canvass area residents of Westview Estates for their opinions about a proposed playground project adjacent to Westview Boulevard.
At town council’s May 13 meeting, area resident Bruce Warkentin was seeking support for the project from council, direction in selecting a suitable location and approval of the project by the town in order to start fundraising.
According to administration, Warkentin has been working with Westview Estates residents on the potential development of a playground in the green space south of the pond off Westview Boulevard.
According to information provided as part of council’s agenda, Westview Estates development is currently in Stage 6.
A playground for the area is not in the plans until Phase 11. Currently the closest playgrounds are at St. Patrick School and Magrath Estate Park.
“There is no playground planned anywhere in the near future,” said recreation director Dawn Phillips. “We’re currently in Phase 6 of development, and a playground is planned for Phase 11, and is of course dependent on future development timelines. Mr. Warkentin asked if the green space south of the pond, just off of Westview Boulevard, would be suitable. From a playground insulation perspective, this has been deemed a suitable location by our playground inspectors. There is some consideration about the busy street, as well as some neighbours concerned about the pond being in such close proximity, so a fence may be something that may be considered if that location is a consideration.”
Warkentin has “received a lot of community support for the project,” but there has been some opposition to the location by at least two of the residents who live adjacent to the park.
“Looking at the green spaces in Westview, there are no other green spaces that would work at this point that are owned by the town. The rest are the developer’s land,” said Phillips. “I have been approached by two individuals that live in houses adjacent to the park who are strongly against the development of a playground in that area, based on the fact that when they bought their house, there was no plans for a playground, and they don’t want to see one there.”
Presented to the Taber Recreation Board at their May 2 meeting, that body passed a motion in support of the project and directed it to council for their consideration.
“I’m impressed with how expedited this process was,” said Warkentin. “I was pleasantly surprised to get in front of the rec board relatively quickly, and here as well today. I think the main thing to recognize is the park as planned is very far in the future, and any family that’s currently in Westview probably won’t have kids that are playground age where the original design comes to fruition. We’re trying to expedite the process — yes, the location wasn’t as promised originally — and we we’re hoping whatever location there was would work. Unfortunately, we’re very limited as to where that could be. So part of this process is making sure we have public consultation here to ensure that we please as many people as we can, and make sure that it’s in the right location.”
Warkentin was also interested in accessing the ability to provide tax receipts through the town for donations to the project.
“Also, as you’re all aware, if we’re fundraising the Town of Taber can provide a donation receipt as long as it’s an approved project. But I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, in terms of I would like to get council approval to move forward with this so we can proceed with building a park in Westview at some point in the near future.”
Warkentin reported he had informally canvassed 170 homes in the area prior to attending the May 13 meeting.
“There are a couple of people that are unhappy about location, but I have not heard anybody say they didn’t want a park in the area. I think it’s a valuable asset in the community — or would be — because there’s a lot of young families in the area.”
Coun. Joe Strojwas inquired if land to the north of the pond might be more suitable if some residents were opposed to a southern location.
“That area is part of the developer’s land still, and so that was kind of the direction that was given to administration,” said Phillips. “The bottom half of the lake is our land, council’s land, the rest is still with the developer.”
“You feel the developer would be opposed to establishing a playground on the northside there?” asked Strojwas.
“I’m not certain,” replied planning director Phyllis Monks. “We’ve been having other negotiations with this developer. It’s possible he would consider, if we were attempting to purchase land, or provide him with some other form of development credit to move that forward sooner. But we would need to receive direction for negotiation with that developer.”
Coun. Jack Brewin was in support of the playground idea.
“There’s a lot of kids in that neighbourhood, and I think it’s a good location. I imagine there’d be a playground zone there for lower speeds through residential, which I feel is not a problem. I support this fully.”
Mayor Andrew Prokop asked Phillips to clarify what concerns had been identified by residents opposed to the proposed location.
“The two individuals that called me are just east of the proposed park area, and yes, that’s what they said — there’s already kids there playing, they didn’t want more yelling and screaming kids in the park. That’s what I understood. They chose the area because of the green space, the calm, their kids were older.”
Coun. Mark Garner, who sits on the town’s Traffic Committee, centered on potential parking concerns in the area.
“I like this location, in that there’s plenty of parking beside it, or to drop kids off, where if you move this to another location, in a residential area, you might be parking in front of people’s homes, and they don’t like that so much.”
Prokop also wanted to know if Warkentin had identified a tentative timeline for the project, and how soon shovels are intended to hit the ground.
“Any optimistic person would want it done as quickly as possible, but it’s contingent on a couple of factors: this approval, but also how much money we have and how long that takes to get in place. Realistically, we’re in May already, so probably unlikely to be done in the next couple of months considering we’re still in the idea phase.”
After Brewin put forward a resolution to support the project and location, Coun. Louie Tams asked him to entertain a friendly amendment to canvass area residents about their viewpoint on the project.
“I believe the group canvassed the neighbourhood already. I don’t know why we’d waste more time,” said Brewin.
Coun. Garth Bekkering also had concerns.
“It seems to me if council passes this particular motion, and then there’s some canvassing done, or some consultation, and it proves that there’s more than one or two that are not in favour, what do you do with the information? Once you’ve made a decision, you’ve made a decision. I’m just wondering if we should get involved there any longer.”
Warkentin would reiterate that he had not canvassed area residents in any official capacity.
“I should be clear. I’m a resident of Westview, on an informal basis going around gathering support. So I don’t represent an organization, or a formal body of interested parties that want to do this. But I guess if one, two, three, four people are opposed to it, at what point is this criteria become where you say no?”
Tams was adamant that town council ensure the voices of area residents not be muzzled in consideration of the project.
“As much as I like the plan for this, I do think it is our duty to check with the residents. They bought a piece of property there, with a development plan, and now there’s a coming park. And I’m not opposed to a park, and I think kids should have parks. But I think it is our duty to canvass the residents that live in that neighbourhood, just to see what their opinion is.”
Brewin would accept Tams’ amendment, following which council voted unanimously to support the Westview Estates community group fundraising efforts for the installation of a playground in Westview Estates, providing direction to administration regarding the proposed location, and directing administration to canvass the area residents about their view of the development.
The resolution also directed administration to report back to council at their June 10 regular meeting.