unbwoodlot

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Fredericton Costco FAQ

Posted by on 16 Aug 2010 | Tagged as: Fredericton, unbwoodlot

Is it open yet?
Yes.

Where is it?
Top of Regent St. on the UNB Woodlot.

UNB woodlot? Isn’t that environmentally sensitive wetland?
No. Other parts of the woodlot are, but not the area where the Costco is going.

What’s the best way to get there?
You should avoid the Regent/Prospect intersection if possible. If you live in the city, you won’t have much choice, but if you come from away, you can easily avoid it.

From Woodstock and further places North-West, don’t turn off at the Fredericton exit (Hwy 8), keep going on TCH#2 towards Moncton, and take exit 285 (Hwy 101). At the end of the ramp, turn left, drive through the woods and Costco will be on your right.
From Oromocto and further places South-East, don’t turn off at the Fredericton exit (Hwy 7), keep going on TCH#2 towards Edmundston and take exit 285B (Hwy 101N). At the end of the ramp, turn right, drive through the woods and Costco will be on your right.

Will it kill other businesses in Fredericton?
Probably not. Downtown businesses won’t be affected as they won’t be directly competing with it. Some stores in the malls may have some difficulty if they can’t compete on price. However, the Costco will bring in more people from farther outside the city who will presumably go to other stores as well.

When is it open?
You should really check the Official Web site, however:

  • M-F 10:00am – 8:30pm
  • Sat. 9:30am – 6:00pm
  • Sun. 12:00pm – 5:00pm

When is the gas bar open?

  • I’ll have to get back to you on that, I heard it was one hour earlier and later than store hours.

Costco rezoning passed

Posted by on 28 Apr 2009 | Tagged as: fail, Fredericton, unbwoodlot

Watched council again. There was another sudden surprise in that the gas station wasn’t part of the property that was being rezoned (it will be on another part of the property). This time it was the councilors that were unprepared as they had spent all that time researching and reading reports on gasoline leak prevention. So what was the vote all about?

A parking lot. They want to move a man-made wetland in order to make a parking lot. All of the decisions about the Costco and gas bar had already been made years ago. This time, it was the councilors who had the off-topic speeches.

This heated debate has been going on for well over a month. A lot of time was spent by groups on both sides preparing speeches, organizing opposition and supporters. This was all for nothing as nobody knew what the actual debate was about until the very last minute.

This was caused by one of two things:

  1. Bad organization. The City is notorious for doing everything behind closed doors. It really concerns me that they can be this disorganized. Is this is a result of nepotism and cronyism? Do they have people that can actually do their job at City Hall? If new information came in at the last minute, wouldn’t it have been best to postpone the vote so people could be more prepared?
  2. Intentional misdirection. They may have intentionally misdirected the opposition to wear them down. I sincerely hope this is not the case as it is not an honest way to debate things. Yes, some of the opposition has been misleading people, but the debate has raised some serious issues about the need for better urban planning.

I’ll be firing off an e-mail to the mayor about this. I’ll post the letter and any responses I get from him (if any).

Woodlot Council meeting report

Posted by on 20 Apr 2009 | Tagged as: Fredericton, unbwoodlot

For the first time ever, I watched Fredericton City Council on Rogers TV.  I was only interested in the presentation about the woodlot and the objections that were given so I skipped through the rest of the meeting.

Mayor Brad Woodside set some ground rules at the beginning. He wanted no mention of the Facebook group and he insisted that if someone ahead of you already made the same point, please don’t waste everybody’s time by repeating it.

The meeting started with the declaration that it was only about rezoning for the gas bar. The applicant changed their mind about filling in a portion of Corbett Brook (because the Department of the Environment told them they couldn’t). This means that the original approval of the Costco from 2005 was still on the books and therefore not for discussion. This late notice about the change left many people surprised and the made most of the presentations off-topic.  The actual area for discussion is seen here: (sorry it’s blurry, it came from a screen capture)

wetland_detail

The purple area is the current wetland and 30m buffer zone. It is not being removed, just moved. As described below, it is not environmentally sensitive:

wetland3

Then came the presentations. I was expecting a lot of theatrics and grandstanding, which the opposition groups had done in the past. I was pleasantly surprised that there was absolutely none of that. All of the presenters were respectful and well spoken.

Despite all of the people presenting, there wasn’t one single argument stating any facts as to why there shouldn’t be a gas bar at that site. The closest they were able to give was that the gas bar increases the possibility of a risk to the wetland. They didn’t know what that actual risk would be, if there even was one. They also said they weren’t aware of how a modern gas station’s leak detection and monitoring solution would work.

The rest of the presentations were significantly off-topic. They were debating the merits of box stores in general, the recreational use of the woodlot, peak oil and how it will become too expensive to drive to Costco, doom and gloom caused by drive-to destinations as well as the First nations claims to the land.

There was one presentation from a retired UNB Engineering professor who said he represented the silent majority.The spirit of his presentation was similar to previous postings here in that there is balance in the overall woodlot development.

The proponents, represented by the Terrain Group, then made a very brief presentation clearing up some inaccuracies that were in some of the previous presentations. Two of their main points were that the provincial department of the environment still has to approve the gas station and that the area is not in Fredericton’s Wellfield Protection Zone so there will be no risk to drinking water should there be a major leak.

The presentations ended and the councilors brought up two points. The first was that they wanted to be able to review the facts on the actual risk of a fuel leak so they asked for some documents from the proponents. The second was that an Irving gas station had already been approved on Bishop Dr near Lian St. This is also near a wetland.

Hopefully council will make an appropriate decision based on hard evidence and good data.

Why the “Save the UNB Woodlot” people are still wrong

Posted by on 06 Apr 2009 | Tagged as: Fredericton, unbwoodlot

The woodlot debate rages on in Fredericton. The mayor’s Facebook group appears to be the latest place where there is debate. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of misinformation being used in the debate.

Many posters to the group insist that the Costco is going to destroy the entire wetland. That simply is not true. Costco is only altering a small part of a wetland. It won’t destroy it. (site plan)

Many of the other arguments also apply to other locations where a Costco could go. The provisions for surface runoff (and drainage) apply no matter where a Costco would be placed, it will cost money no matter what, however, the city will get that money back in the form of property taxes it collects in the future. The same applies to any building in the city, even your house. The road leading to it, water / sewer and drainage all had to be paid for by the city.

They also claim that there will be a great increase in flooding because the wetlands naturally absorb rainfall. They don’t mention the fact that the wetlands are included with the 50% of the woodlot which will be preserved and not filled in or paved over. The wetlands will still be there to do their job. If the woodlot wasn’t developed, the runoff and flooding would still have to be dealt with elsewhere in the city. Also, the woodlot is at the top of the hill so it doesn’t absorb runoff from anywhere other than itself. (Google maps, terrain map of area)

Many Costco location alternatives were proposed, however, the majority of them are unsuitable. The North side of Bishop Dr. isn’t big enough, so it would have to go onto the South side, which is bordered by the UNB woodlot and another wetland. Two Nations Crossing would be an even worse location as the traffic infrastructure wouldn’t be able to handle the massive amount of traffic coming from the highways.

A number of posters on the Facebook group claim that they like to use the woodlot to let their dogs run free. Unfortunately, loose dogs are terrible for environmentally sensitive areas as they disturb wildlife, dig up habitats and their feces contaminate the water. (referenced here) For some reason, the environmentalists aren’t protesting the fact that dogs are currently allowed to run loose on the woodlot. This situation will be improved with the addition of an off-leash dog park which will be built at the site of the Grant-Harvey Centre (on the woodlot).

As stated in the previous posting about this issue, developement on the woodlot can be slowed or even stopped by using the correct approach. Demand better use of the land we currently have. Demand that buildings downtown have minimum heights instead of maximums. Demand that the train station be torn down and replaced with high density buildings. It is actions like this that will slow down development by making the woodlot less valuable. Don’t waste your time trying to prevent current projects from happening, instead spend it by looking at the long term goals. The 50% of the woodlot will only be fully developped after 50 years, that’s plenty of time to spend making the city make better use of existing land.

Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside learns how the Internet works

Posted by on 15 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: Fredericton, Reviews, unbwoodlot

Fredericton mayor Brad Woodside has been getting a fair amount of press about his pro-Costco Facebook group.

He created it to prove that there was a clear majority of people in favour of the Costco. Of course, the anti-development people decided that they would use this Facebook group to promote their cause. That was his first lesson, if you create a Facebook group on a controversial subject, there will be controversy in your Facebook group.

He also left the Links and Photos sections open on the group, these got filled up with anti-development links and photos pretty quickly. So what does Mr. Woodside do? He takes down those two sections (while keeping the discussion boards and wall open). Two of the deleted links were anti-development and the other one went to a link on this site. The discussion board and wall soon filled up with cries of censorship. His second lesson is that any time any site maintainer removes a posting, there will be cries of censorship. It didn’t matter that he removed postings from both sides of the argument, there were still cries.

A kind individual set up a poll on an external site as it was becoming too hard to judge how many people were actually for the development. The poll asked whether you were in support of a Costco on the woodlot, somewhere else in the city, somewhere else in the province, or not at all. Mr. Woodside advertised the poll in the group and sent the group members a message about it. For the first few days, the poll registered a fairly consistent 80% of people being in favour of putting the Costco on the woodlot.  It only took a few days, but on Saturday, the poll suddenly read 55% against putting the Costco in the woodlot. That was Mr. Woodside’s third lesson, if you have an open poll, it will get hacked or swarmed. Hacking involves finding a flaw in the duplicate detection system that prevents someone from voting several hundred times. Swarming involves encouraging people who don’t have anything to do with the original discussion to go and vote on that specific poll. They may have gone onto a larger discussion forum and had anti-development people from all over the world vote on this poll. Without having access to the server logs, it’s impossible to tell which one it was in this case.

So now the poll gets closed as it was pretty obvious that it was tampered with. That leaves the discussion board.  That just got swamped with cries of censorship and it ended up being impossible to discuss anything.  That caused the discussion boards to close. Now all that’s left is the wall, the same few people are now continually reposting the same thing again and again so that it stays near the top. It won’t be long before those posts are purged and even more claims of censorship are given. The mayor’s fourth lesson will be that online discussions will spill over into other places. I can bet that this experiment will haunt him for a while. Expect to hear about it in the old media in the next few days.

I believe that Facebook can be used by city officials to connect with the people. Hopefully this experience doesn’t discourage them, as great things can be accomplished with social media.

**UPDATE** This made it on Fark.

Why the “Save the UNB Woodlot” people are wrong

Posted by on 19 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: Fredericton, unbwoodlot

The people at UNB in Fredericton have been sitting on some land that has recently been going up in value as the city grows around it. They have also had to endure years of funding cuts meaning they aren’t able to fund their programs as well as they’d like to. By putting 2 and 2 together, they were able to come up with a solution: lease 50% of the land to gain some revenue.

As with any type of development, there are people who will be against it for whatever reason. In this case, the people protesting it are wrong for the following reasons:

1. The claim of urban sprawl

The protesters use this as an example of urban sprawl. In fact, it is the exact opposite of sprawl as it’s making use of land already in the city limits. If that land wasn’t developed, the box stores would have to go farther out of the city and that would be less ideal. Cars would have to be driven more, therefore more fuel burned. Also, without access to city water and sewer, they would have to have a well and septic system, which aren’t as good as city services.

2. The loss of recreational use

The protesters claim that by developing the land, they will lose access to the lands for recreational use. The trouble is, that land was never intended for recreational use. UNB didn’t put up “no trespassing” signs so people were allowed to go there. Nobody ever had the “right” to use it for recreational purposes.  Besides, the extra tax revenue will allow the city to expand and develop the Killarney Lake park, which will be significantly large.  Of course, there will still be 50% of the woodlot land left to use, some of which will be developed into actual parkland.

3. Costco is actually better for the environment

Buying in bulk saves packaging and cuts down on waste. Even the building itself has less of an impact than many smaller stores. The spartan interior means fewer materials in the landfill when the time comes to tear the building down. The bare concrete floor eliminates harmful flooring materials and the chain-link fence based interior partitions can be recycled.

4. The Knowledge Park Drive Extension

This new road, which goes through the property will allow access to some of the 50% conservation lands which can then be used as parks. This will allow many more people to use the land for recreational purposes. That road will also cut down on congestion on Regent St. between Prospect and the malls. Saving congestion saves gas.

Conclusion

If they really want to stop development, there are other ways:

  • Insist that UNB gets much more funding from governments. This will put a damper on development
  • Insist that better use of existing land be made. New buildings downtown need to be taller. Stand up to the NIMBYs who protest developments (such as the apartment buildings at the end of Church St and the Sobeys on Regent)

Telling people to change their lifestyle is not the way to go about this. Neither is telling a private organization what to do with land it owns.

Links: UNB Woodlot siteUNB Woodlot Development Protestors