Below is a letter I wrote to my city councillors regarding the vote to close or maintain the status quo for Edmonton’s City Centre Airport. I have rather strong feelings about the issue, and though they aren’t fleshed out too much in the letter below, I thought I wold share with the internets all the same… A great run-down of reports on the City Centre Airport can be found here. And Councillor Don Iveson shares his thoughts on YXD here.
Good Afternoon Councillors,
My name is Adam Rozenhart. I’m a Ward 4 constituent living in the picturesque neighbourhood of Riverdale. I’m writing you today concerning the hearings on what to do with Edmonton’s Downtown Airport. I implore you to vote in favour of closing its doors and redeveloping those lands for residential and commercial in-fill.
I’ve been listening to the discussion over the web the last three days, and I fear (as Scott McKeen pointed out in this recent column in the Journal) the pro-airport speakers have unduly influenced councillors with dire forecasts of medevac failures and the bleeding of businesses down south to Calgary.
Forgive me, but I call bullshit.
While there is no question in my mind that closing the downtown airport will have significant repercussions in this city, I see these repercussions as being extremely positive. Developing those lands with TOD in mind will bring a new energy to the City. A youthful one. I’ve spent the last five years working trying to build businesses in Edmonton while my friends have opted to leave for greener pastures — both literally and figuratively. They’ve moved to forward-thinking cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Portland. Cities where transit isn’t shunned; it’s encouraged. My friends brag about how they rarely need to drive their vehicles, how convenient it is to ride transit, and how easy it is to get around on a bicycle. They hadn’t the patience to wait for Edmonton to get its shit together.
I’m tired of having to justify to Edmonton ex-pats why I still live here. We’re still viewed by outsiders as a backward thinking small town with the footprint of a big city. It’s time for Edmonton to put its money where its mouth is. It’s time for us to draw a line in the sand and declare that we realize that tough choices need to be made; we realize that some choices are going to be unpopular; but that we realize, ultimately, this is will benefit future generations of Edmontonians.
The downtown airport lands represent an opportunity to do something uniquely green and smart with development in Edmonton. It means further intensification in the core, and it means a glut of new development. This is a good thing.
I don’t make the following statement to alarm you or to try and force you in a corner, but for me the Downtown Airport decision is a keystone decision. It means the different between staying in Edmonton in the coming years or moving to the coast. Simple as that. I love this city. I’ve lived here my entire life — 29 years. I’m an Edmonton booster. But unless City Council starts making the hard choices, stems the out-of-control sprawl taking place and starts to implement transit-oriented development and pedestrian-oriented development strategies, I will in all likelihood pull up my roots and move to a city that cares about such things.
I’m sorry this is so brief. I would love to sit down and chat with one or both of you about this issue before you vote. I want the right decision to be made for the city, not for the people who fly in, use our services occasionally and then leave. In my mind, this is a decision that must be made for Edmonton and Edmontonians.
I’ve rambled enough. Please feel free to contact me if you’re interested in discussing this issue with me.