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Strathcona County council approves zoning, clears way for controversial $86M multiplex

A controversial multiplex project is one step closer to becoming a reality after Strathcona County council voted in favour of a rezoning bylaw for the parcel of land where the facility will be located. 

The motion passed during a public hearing on Tuesday that lasted until midnight. More than 50 residents came to the community centre to voice their support and opposition to the project. 

At issue Tuesday night was whether the roughly 17 acres of land beside the 143-year-old Jackson Homesteaders farm should be rezoned from agricultural development to light industrial, with a site-specific regulation for a maximum height of 17 metres for recreation and indoor use.

In February, county council approved an agreement with the Sherwood Park Crusaders Hockey Society to build the multiplex.

The Crusaders plan to construct and fund an estimated $86-million multipurpose facility with a four-sheet ice-rink arena and seating capacity for at least 2,500. The multiplex would come at no cost to taxpayers, other than annual contributions.

The facility is planned for county land north of Highway 16 and west of Township Road 231 (Clover Bar Road), west of Cambrian Crossing.

A side-by-side comparison shows the proposed parcel of land that was approved for rezoning by Strathcona County council. A screenshot from Google Maps indicates where the Jackson Homesteaders are located. (Strathcona County/Google Maps)

Residents and interested parties, including the Jackson family and members of the Crusaders hockey society, presented their viewpoints on why the multiplex would hurt or elevate the community. 

“This is a tough crowd,” said resident Corrie Godfrey, who opposed the motion. 

“We represent two of the things that Albertans are most passionate about hockey and agriculture.”  

Godfrey said the stakes were high for all who were motivated enough to come out to speak. 

“However, we actually all want the same thing. We want Strathcona County to grow and thrive, and we want to do things we love.”

Agriculture vs development 

Both councillors and residents debated  how to balance the amenity needs of a rapidly growing community while still respecting the concerns voiced by the Jackson farm. 

The Jacksons contend that opening a multiplex would put their farming operations in jeopardy. They have concerns about safety issues, such as increased traffic affecting livestock and farming machinery, crime, and littering.  

The family said they are not opposed to building an arena in the community but that the present location has been ill-chosen. 

“If it’s 10 years from now, and our kids are old enough, we can justify moving the farm out to a new farm site,” said Laura Jackson. 

“But right now, we don’t know what the future holds. Quite honestly, we’re just holding on. We’re going to farm until we can’t do it anymore.” 

Ryan Maxwell, one of the owners of the Crusaders, said finding another area for the arena would be challenging. 

“If not rezoned, we will need to invest another year in a new property and with escalating materials and construction costs, there’s no guarantee that we’ll have a viable project as good as this one a year from now.”

Maxwell said efforts would be made to mitigate the impact on the Jackson farm through trees along the property line and stronger fencing. 

WATCH | Strathcona County arena project aims to alleviate ice crunch. But these farmers say it will be their downfall:

Why a local farm is fighting against the proposed location of a Strathcona County multiplex

9 days ago

Duration 2:30

The Jackson Homesteaders farm has been around for almost 145 years in Strathcona County. But the family says the farm’s future is in jeopardy after Strathcona County council approved an agreement with the Sherwood Park Crusaders Hockey Society for the team to fund and build an $86-million multipurpose facility.

Residents who said they support the multiplex cited wide-ranging benefits of the project.

Jason Rietveld, a sledge hockey coach with the Edmonton Adaptive Sports Association, said an arena could help support the sport’s popularity among disabled players.

“It’s very hard for players in wheelchairs and mobility devices to move from rink to rink, so one facility would be necessary.”

The sharing of ice time was voiced as a concern, with parents citing having to drive to other communities and groups like the Sherwood Park Ringette Association, noting growing interest in their sport. 

Council decision 

In a 7-2 decision at the end of the public hearing, council passed the motion to rezone the land.

The public hearing is the final time the matter must go through council unless an amendment is sought. 

Councillors who voted to rezone noted ongoing urban development with the surrounding residential housing through Cambrian developments.

Coun. Katie Berghofer, who voted in favour, said the county must prepare for the expected increase of 13,000 residents across the road from the farm as housing continues to be built.  

Coun. Dave Anderson and Aaron Nelson said they voted against the motion out of obligation to preserve farmland.

“I cannot in good conscience support a development that significantly impedes the long-standing operations of a generational farming family like the Jacksons,” Andreson said.  

The next step for the project is seeking approval for a development permit.

The facility is expected to open in 2026.  

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