Looks like Fredericton city councillors are in a tough jam. They want to sell some land that they own. Trouble is, there’s currently a popular strawberry U-Pick operation running on part of it. There’s also a wetland that can’t be developed (we’ll just exclude this portion from further discussion). Another problem is that the residents near there have become accustomed to having that area undeveloped and simply don’t want more houses there.

So now there are three proposals:

1. Develop the entire property into a single-family residential neighbourhood, just like the properties that are near it.

2. Turn the entire property into a park while keeping the strawberry operation intact.

3. Keep the strawberry operation, but develop the wooded portion.

Let’s have a look at some arguments that were seen about it: (can’t link to sources due to paywall)

  • “If you build houses there, then you are creating sprawl” – False. If you don’t build houses there, they will be built somewhere else, cutting down trees somewhere else. They would have to be built further away, possibly outside city limits with no water/sewer access and create more carbon by people having to drive farther to get to work/shop.
  • “If the wooded area isn’t developed, it would cost a lot for washrooms/parking” – False. The proposal isn’t looking to make the wooded area into a park, just to leave it wooded.
  • “It is better for the environment to keep the berry field there” – Questionable. This is a commercial farming operation, not claiming to be organic.
  • “Many great memories were made there and it should be kept for that reason” – True. The debate about the strawberry field is entirely emotional. This essentially makes it a tourism issue.

So there seems to be strong logical and popular support for option 3, yet the city has set up an all-or-nothing approach. They are only voting on option 2. If that doesn’t pass, then they will still be in the same position where they were when they started and we’ll keep having this debate year after year. There is a lot of popular support for keeping the strawberry fields intact, but there’s little reason to keep the wooded area intact. The only people who want that saved are the residents who live nearby, just like what happens with so many other developments.

Save the strawberry field for political reasons, but develop the wooded area into something nice. The city could use that area and build an excellent walking and bike friendly neighbourhood. It’s about time that Fredericton gets some high quality residential neighbourhoods. We aren’t used to them as our usual gang of local developers just opt for the cheapest options that earn them the most profit. Perhaps there will be less resistance to such things in the future if someone can prove that Fredericton will welcome quality development. It’s time to set the bar higher.

 

Here’s a map. The grey area is the strawberry field, the area with the diagonal lines init is the rest (wooded area and wetland).