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Farmers not shy about opposing proposed road through their land

WATCH ABOVE: The future of a farm in northeast Edmonton is up in the air thanks to a proposed runway. Jessica Kent has more on what local farmers are doing to protect their land.

EDMONTON —  The fate of a farm in northeast Edmonton is up in the air thanks to a proposed roadway. The Horse Hill development is projected to house 70,000 people by the time it is complete.

Come Jan. 26, a public hearing with city council will talk about the next step for what could be Edmonton’s newest residential area.

Located in northeast Edmonton, the proposal doesn’t have everyone jumping on board.

“We’re not against development, but [build it] in a way that preserves the most special pieces of land,” said Kelly Mills, co-manager of Lady Flower Gardens, a project that operates out of Riverbend Gardens.
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“This area [is unlike] anywhere else in Alberta, it’s perfect for growing food for human beings.”

Kelly Mills and Doug Visser are worried about the future of the farm. The project shows a major road going right through Riverbend Gardens, agricultural land owned by Visser and used by Mills.

“If it’s approved in its present trajectory, it’s going to wipe out this farm,” said Mills.

Bordered by the North Saskatchewan River, Visser’s agricultural land is a bustling vegetable garden in the summer, growing produce for the local food scene and providing food for three local shelters.

“We have the opportunity to provide a lot of food if we have land,” said Visser. “This is a common land, it’s not just ours it’s for all of us.”

The road would split the farm in half, jeopardizing his livelihood and the city’s food security, according to Visser.

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“When you put a road through the land is gone essentially, because they strip all the top soil,” she added.

The exact location of the road and timelines of the project aren’t certain. Visser, Mills and other area residents are opposing the proposal of the road’s location before it’s too late.

Residents are registered to speak at a public hearing on Monday.

“We’re going to talk to city council about moving the capital region board highway that is conceptually planned to devastate this farm, run right through it,” said Mills.

Laurie Moulton, senior planner for the northeast unit at the City of Edmonton, explained there will need to be a road put in place at some point in time.

“[The area structure plan] will be going back to council for review and amendment if and when necessary,” added Moulton.

Visser’s parents bought the land in 1956 and it remains within city limits. He’s lived there most of his life and said they put a restrictive covenant on their land 30 years ago.

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Mills fears that may not be enough to stop the road.

“If it’s deemed for the common good, this road, then the government can just expropriate it.”

An independent study will be done to determine the road’s location and the fate of the local farm.

“Everybody eats, everybody needs nature, everybody loves to go for a walk through the forest and get out of the city, it’s healing,” added Mills.

The first phase of the Horse Hill development project is expected to be complete in 21 years.

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