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Draper Residents React Over Council’s Decision Against Dunvegan Gardens

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7
Draper Residents React Over Council's Decision Against Dunvegan Gardens

A major hurdle is being thrown at Dunvegan Gardens.

At a special meeting on Tuesday, Wood Buffalo council voted against their application to change their boundary in Draper.

This means Dunvegan can no longer have their farm animals or run their retail store, however, the recreation centre, market garden, and the rest of their facility can still be operational.

The only council member who didn’t vote against was Phil Meagher. Councillor’s Krista Balsom and Keith McGrath weren’t in attendance.

After hearing from legal services, Mayor Don Scott and Councillor Mike Allen both decided to vote against the application. The reason being is the amendments outlined in Dunvegan’s application could have easily been challenged and overturn.

After the meeting, VP of Operations Brad Friesen told Mix News he didn’t want to comment at the time.

Along with appeals, Dunvegan can bring forward another application in six months.

Failed Motion

Mayor Don Scott also brought forward a motion which would have had administration work with Dunvegan.

He says the idea was to have something in front of council they could debate without the worry of it being challenged in a court of law.

It was rejected by a vote of 6-2 with Scott and Meagher voting in favor.

Councillor Verna Murphy wasn’t a fan of the idea.

“Are we going to keep doing this over and over.”

She says Dunvegan is a special place to many but they can’t keep playing favorites.

“I had heard from lots of businesses that felt that Dunvegan really was a favorite or received some nepotism over the years – since the fire, so many businesses have closed, not been able to reopen and I just felt I couldn’t support going on like this.”

Murphy also said that supporting the Draper residents needs to be their focus moving forward.

Meanwhile, Scott also brought forward another motion to have administration figure out the costs for paving the streets in Draper in an attempt to solve the dust issue.

That passed unanimously.

Draper Residents Speak Out

Residents pack into council chambers to speak on Dunvegan Gardens land use issue. May 8, 2018 // Jaryn Vecchio – Harvard Broadcasting

After a battle lasting roughly nine years, some of Draper’s residents are looking at this decision as a victory.

Many erupted in applause, others overcome with emotion realizing that the municipality seemed to finally be on their side.

Speaking with Mix News, Andrew and Jodi Thorne said this was never a battle between Draper and Dunvegan but rather a battle over an illegal business.

“[Council] recognized that the residents aren’t bad people because they want their rights back,” said Andrew. “Quiet use and enjoyment is part of the character of our district, always has been.”

The Thorne’s, who’ve received numerous threats over the years, are hoping that residents realize they’re not monsters.

During the public hearing held last week, multiple residents said they had no problem with the market garden, kids enjoying the area, and other little features.

“Having people call you names, it certainly surprised us when it started because we didn’t see it as relevant, the mature thing to do,” added Andrew. “Making untrue comments is a defamatory act and in this instance, several people are going to have criminal records as a result.”

When asked whether they were worried the threats would continue, the Thorne’s said they’re hoping people take the high road.

“We had the advantage of knowing we were always standing up for our community and the people who didn’t have a voice or to shy to voice their own story,” said Jodi. “For the Facebook crowd, it was quite the story to have the poor farmer against a lawyer, that made an easy target for my husband mostly and myself, but we knew who we were fighting for and it was our kids, our family and our community.”

The Thorne’s also know the fight isn’t over as Dunvegan can still appeal and bring forward another application in a few months.

“This was our dream home, our neighbors dream homes, and they didn’t move down there to be part of this.”

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