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Strathcona County is welcoming an $86M multiplex. Here’s why a local farm is fighting it

Farming is a family business for the Jacksons. 

Colin and Laura Jackson have owned and operated the 143-year-old Jackson Homesteaders farm in Strathcona County since the 1990s.

But now they say the farm’s future is in jeopardy following the announcement of a proposed multipurpose arena set to be located directly beside their land. 

Strathcona County Council has an agreement with the Sherwood Park Crusaders Hockey Society to construct and fund an estimated $86 million multipurpose facility. The facility will include a four-sheet ice-rink arena with seating capacity for at least 2,500.

The proposed location for the arena is north of Highway 16 and west of Township Road 231 (Clover Bar Road), west of Cambrian Crossing in the county.

Collage
A side-by-side comparison shows the proposed parcel of land that will be looked at for a rezoning application by Strathcona County council. A screenshot from Google Maps indicates where the Jackson Homesteaders are located. (Strathcona County/Google Maps)

However, the family said the 24 acres designated for the arena location, sandwiched between their farm and a Canadian National Railway track, is ill-chosen and it would negatively impact their operations.

The Jacksons say they do not oppose increasing amenities for the growing county.

But they are worried about potential issues presented by the arena’s location, including foot and vehicular traffic.

“There are safety issues with the animals. That is one of our main concerns. I think if this arena goes in, at present, this is the only fence we have separating the arena.” said Laura Jackson. 

“Basically, this is all going to be a parking lot with a massive arena right smack in the middle of it.” 

A fence
The Jackson family said the 24 acres designated for the arena location, sandwiched between their farm and a Canadian National Railway track, would negatively impact their operations. (David Bajer/CBC)

Jackson Homesteaders has a variety of operations, including horse boarding, livestock and grain framing. 

They farm nearly 3,320 acres in the county and the outskirts of Edmonton.

Jackson said the family is concerned about increased instances of trespassing, theft, and litter while carrying out important tasks like harvesting, seeding, and cutting hay. She thinks it would make farming in the arena unfeasible. 

“We have B-trains, highway trucks … combines and sprayers and tandem trucks going in and out all the time, all day, 20 hours a day, and when we need to get that crop off, we need to move,” Jackson said, suggesting that safety issues that would arise from the increased traffic and the space needed to use farming equipment. 

 “We don’t have time to be calling and having cars towed because they’re parked in our driveway, because the parking is going to be a nightmare … if there’s 2,000 cars leaving after a concert and blocking the exit.” 

The Jacksons want to work with the county on finding another location.

‘Innovative’ partnership, mayor says

In an interview with CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active in February, county Mayor Rod Frank said the partnership is “an innovative approach to tackling municipal problems and also seeing private sector succeed.”

He noted it came about through four years of negotiation.

“What makes it unique is that it is a public-private partnership in the truest sense of the word where each party brings its assets and abilities to the table and ends up with something greater than they could have accomplished on their own,” Frank said.

“It’s going to be at no cost the taxpayer, other than annual contributions, but the $86 million capital spend will be funded privately [by the Crusaders].” 

The county approved the 20-year agreement for the arena with the Crusaders on Feb. 13.

Through the agreement, the county will provide land and $990,000 annually to support the facility’s operations and maintenance and make an equity investment. 

At the end of the agreement, the Crusaders will return the equity investment of $4 million to the county.

Under the agreement, the Crusaders are expected to provide the county with at least 2,430 hours of community ice time each year.

LISTEN | Mayor and Crusaders hockey team co-owner talks about multimillion-dollar multiplex

Radio Active10:28Plans for new four rink multiplex in Sherwood Park

<p>Strathcona County is going to be home to a new $86 million dollar multiplex arena thanks to the Sherwood Park Crusaders. We speak to the mayor and one of the owners to find out more about the plans for the facility.</p>

Ryan Maxwell, one of the owners of the Sherwood Park Crusaders Hockey Society, said the county and Crusaders considered several site options for the arena.

“It’s a multipurpose facility. So it’s about bringing top-tier concerts, different sports, trade shows to the facility to make it a profitable venture,” said Maxwell, who was also interviewed in the same CBC segment.

“These arenas are not great investments, they do make money, for us it was important to show our commitment to Strathcona County [and] Sherwood Park for all that they have done for the Sherwood Park Crusaders since 1978.”

Land previously owned by Jacksons

The land that the county is using for the arena was purchased from the Jacksons, with the understanding it was going to be used for a different purpose. 

Colin Jackson said the county initially approached the family to buy the parcel of land to construct a stormwater management facility in conjunction with the road upgrades to support nearby urban development. 

Jackson said the family was not keen on selling their land but they anticipated minimal impact on farming operations from a stormwater facility. 

The county executed an offer to purchase the lands in 2015, according to a statement provided by acting manager of communications and engagement with the county, Sherri-Dawn Annett. 

“After further detailed engineering analysis, it was determined that the additional stormwater management facility would not be required and the lands have since then been considered surplus lands,” according to the county. 

Annett said the county is aware of concerns being raised about the arena and that it will hold a public hearing on April 9.

At the hearing, county council will consider an application for rezoning the lands from future development to light industrial. Residents will have the opportunity to voice their opinions of the arena’s impact. The Jacksons hope council will not approve the rezoning application.

Future of the farm and project 

Maxwell said he hopes the hearing does not lead to a change in the arena’s location. 

“We’ve invested significant capital into this property, from environmental assessments to geotechnical to traffic, impasse assessments to surveys, to design. And ultimately, we’re ready to go, and the sooner we get a green light, the sooner we can have this facility,” Maxwell said. 

Meanwhile, the Jackson family has started an online petition aiming to halt the zoning application.

“We’re hoping that us, and the community, will rally and that council will realize that maybe they need to reconsider other spots,” Colin Jackson said.

“It will be sad for us to leave this history.”

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