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GlenEagles development holds record public hearing, vehement resident opposition

It remains to be seen if third time will be a charm for the contentious four-acre parcel of land in GlenEagles that came before council on Monday night. A third development application in less than three years was given first reading on Sept.
Jones’ land in Cochrane on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (Photo by Yasmin Mayne)

It remains to be seen if third time will be a charm for the contentious four-acre parcel of land in GlenEagles that came before council on Monday night. A third development application in less than three years was given first reading on Sept. 10 to re-designate the private lands from Urban Residential to Residential, following a record public hearing that drew a crowd spilling out of chambers into the halls and some heavy-hitting presenters speaking against the application from Quantum Place Developments (QPD) for up to 11 single-family homes on the site. The hearing ran over four hours and not including administration and QPD, had 10 resident speakers. While Chris Ollenberger, managing principal for QPD, maintains that they have gone "above and beyond" in their due diligence regarding geo-technical reports, public engagement and ensuring that construction impact from the development would be minimized – the residents bit back with strong words cautioning council to be mindful they were elected to represent the best interests of their electorate. At the top of the list of concerns discussed by residents included slope stability; ground water and drainage downstream along GlenEagles Drive and the impact this could have on road and ditch degradation; roads and access – namely that the sole access along GlenVista Lane, which residents maintain is already too narrow at only 7.3 metres with blind spots and no sidewalks; and quality of life for existing residents who maintain the town sent two letters several years ago confirming that GlenEagles was now deemed a "complete community" – and they never thought they would have to possibly look forward to the traffic, extensive dust and debris resulting from construction and the safety concerns this imposes. Rodger Grant lives in the Vistas – next to the would-be development. Grant told council his family purchased their home in 2004 under the disclosure provided to him by the developer and the town that there would be no further development on those lands. "We believe that existing landowners in GlenEagles have rights that should be respected. We are residents and not speculators or developers, therefore we would urge the Town of Cochrane to reject this re-zoning application." GlenEagles Estates condo board member and lawyer Phil Lalonde was another presenter. Lalonde explained that residents in the Estates have reason for concern for development on the hilltop – which he said could easily put pressure on the stone and concrete walls surrounding their community. The tense history of the walls, namely the main western wall, which includes a collapse on the portion that faces GlenEagles Drive on the southwest side in 2006, continues to be monitored – with annual engineering inspections revealing that the wall is sound. The Estates is concerned that any changes with respect to development could place pressure on the soil balance and bring on problems that residents felt had finally been laid to rest. "Who's being asked to assume the risk? ... Who faces the risk three, four, five years down the road?" Lalonde also stressed that council's decision should not be influenced by any talk of future lawsuits from the developer. Should the town reject the application based on planning merits, the senior litigator advised that the town would be well within its rights to reject the application and that the lawsuit would likely be tossed out of court for being "frivolous and vexatious." He also pointed out, through documentation, that the $4.2 million value on title is not necessarily proof of what was paid for the property from the previous landowner – only that there was an existing promissory note from second co-applicant Hazkar for $557,500. Lalonde posited perhaps the whole deal was an elaborate agreement filled with red flags and possibly connecting all three applicants under various company names. "There is something wrong here with the math and there is something wrong with what is happening underneath." Other presenters included professional engineer Graham Hook, Gary Kooista, hydro-geologist Dan Brown, Dave Ray, Uwe Nystrom, Ron Douglas and construction and safety professional Chris Webster – all who spoke sternly of such concerns such as traffic flows, quality of life, slope stability, changes to the water table from the development and temporary construction access off Highway 1A and how heavy haul trucks may re-route through the community. The QPD team maintains that from setbacks to slope stability, they have taken a "very conservative approach." Ollenberger, the geotechnical engineer who worked on Sunterra Ridge in Cochrane, countered critiques over their February soil testing when the ground is frozen by stressing that their data is based off modelling of the highest expected seasonal readings and then adding four feet. He also asserted that the soil contents on the site are not the same material that is found in other areas of GlenEagles – something that presenters such as Webster strongly took issue with. As per process, mayor and council are not to debate the application until second reading – presumably at the Oct. 9 council session. Council must then factor in everything they have heard and determine whether or not the application aligns with the town's planning guideline – the Municipal Development Plan. "My number one priority is to listen," said Mayor Jeff Genung. "I didn't follow the five-minute maximum rules for speakers because the gallery was full of these concerned residents ... ultimately it was a long hearing, but it was important for me to allow their concerns to be heard." The second application to develop on the Jones Estate Land was turned down at first reading one year ago by the previous council.

Lindsay  Seewalt

About the Author: Lindsay Seewalt

Lindsay is a senior Eagle reporter who has transformed her penchant for storytelling into the craft of writing.
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