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Council to consider 90-day development moratorium for Abasand, Beacon Hill, Waterways

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7
Council to consider 90-day development moratorium for Abasand, Beacon Hill, Waterways

What appears to be a patio set sits covered in tackifier in the destroyed area of Beacon Hill on June 8, 2016 // Chris Vandenbreekel - Harvard Broadcasting

RMWB administration wants a chance to assess whether Abasand, Beacon Hill, and Waterways should be rebuilt.

Staff are recommending a 90-day moratorium on development in the hardest hit neighbourhoods, saying they need to evaluate whether the areas remain “suitable for the types of land uses that existed before the wildfire.”

The matter will be brought forward at Tuesday night’s council meeting, the first in Fort McMurray since the evacuation.

While permits are already needed for most development projects, the moratorium would prevent any development that doesn’t require one. Without a development ban, municipal clerks are also obligated to issue permit requests if they adhere to the RMWB’s development standards.

Administration says while the 90 days won’t be enough time to gather all of the information, they should be able to put together enough for council to engage with the public and come to an informed decision regarding the neighbourhoods.

Key among the information that needs to be gathered is environmental data related to health and safety. Provincial tests have discovered the presence of heavy metals, dioxins, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons in the ash in affected neighbourhoods. The level of destruction in Abasand, Beacon Hill, and Waterways has led to levels of these toxins above public health recommendations for safe tolerance.

There is uncertainty as to the long-term impacts in the neighbourhoods, among other concerns. Waterways lies on a flood plain, and the provincial government has instituted an Alberta-wide ban on flood plain development. Waterways was initially given an exemption since it was a pre-existing community, but with 90% of the community lost in the wildfire there are questions as to whether the province will allow a rebuild.

“We know how important it is to begin the rebuilding process in a timely way,” Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee said by email. “But at the same time, it’s important to make smart decisions in consultation with residents.”

In administration’s recommendation, they mention the possibility of town halls with residents once information has been collected.

Council begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Jubilee Centre.

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