Round One: Environmentalists 1 – University 0

In a marathon meeting on the evening of February 19, city council voted 5 to 2 in favour of delaying receiving the environmental assessment which recommends sports fields on the environmental reserve.

Last year the city, the university, the YMCA and the library entered into a partnership under which the city would lease 23 acres of the environmental reserve for sports fields and 7 acres at Fischer-Hallman and Laurelwood Drive for a combined YMCA/library facility. The city would lease these lands for a dollar for 50 years in return for providing the university with around $9 million in infrastructure to develop part of the lands to the west of Westmount Road.

One of the conditions of this deal was that an environmental assessment was to be completed to determine the environmental feasibility of locating the sports fields on the environmental reserve. This environmental assessment was made public the week of February 12 and recommends that the sports field option can proceed.

Fortunately we now have a new city council. They were receptive to the arguments made by six presenters – all pointing out that the original deal and the environmental assessment was flawed. Sports fields and environmental areas are incompatible.

Although the new city council only delayed receiving the report, obviously they have strong reservations about putting sports fields on the environmental reserve.

This is not the end of the battle. The city signed a memorandum of understanding with the parties and I expect the university, the Y and the library will be obtaining legal advice about preventing the city from backing out since they have a favourable environmental assessment.

However the expectation was that the university had a slam dunk here. Things have changed and there is now hope that the environmental reserve could actually become that.

This article appeared in the March 2007 edition of the Beaver Creek DAM Newsletter.