* Parent lobby derails school - School zoning can be changed (7/11/02)

Tramès per Klaus Rudolph (Citizens' Initiative Omega)

The Edmonton Journal

Board agrees site too close to power lines: DEVELOPMENT DEBATE
Bill Mah, Civic Affairs Writer The Edmonton Journal

Saturday, October 26, 2002

In a surprise decision critics say could trigger widespread challenges to future construction projects, a group of city parents has halted construction of a school after arguing its proximity to high-voltage wires poses a health risk.

City politicians and school officials were assessing the implications Friday, a day after Lisa Amyotte and her neighbours successfully quashed a development permit for Archbishop Joseph MacNeil school, already under construction in the city's southwest.

While the parents hailed the development appeal board ruling as a victory for those seeking a safer school environment, Edmonton Catholic Schools board chairman Charlie Koester said the decision sets a far-reaching precedent. The ruling could affect the development of every school, every business and the plans of every homeowner in Edmonton given a permit to build close to power lines. "The ramifications to this city are huge," said Koester. "If this decision came down and all of a sudden your house is within that zone they're talking about, and they're telling you it's unsafe, wouldn't you go after the developers and after the city?"

The appeal was a last-ditch manoeuver, after a 10-month fight thatincluded unsuccessfully lobbying city council twice to move the schoolbeing built 108 metres from overhead power lines.

The mothers who oppose the school agreed their victory could signal the start of more awareness about the issue of possible health effects of electric and magnetic radiation. "The members of the appeal board listened to the research and they made a judgment based on that," saidparent Lisa Gelasco.

The subdivision and appeal board is a quasi-judicial panel that rules on disputes under zoning and subdivision bylaws. It won't release itslegally binding written decision until Nov. 8, but board administrator Sheila McDonald confirmed the board upheld the appeal. Gelasco, Amyotte, Nancy Manning and Patricia Tamman based their appeal on letters written by experts in electric and magnetic radiation. Edmonton Catholic Schoolsand its architect brought in their own expert, B.C. Cancer Agency epidemiologist Mary McBride, who told the panel she would send her ownchildren to the school.

"I think it's a step for regulations and guidelines," said Gelasco, 28, who says for her the fight was fuelled by a brush with melanoma cancer last year. "I was really scared that this would be an increased risk forher."

The school for 400 students from kindergarten to Grade 9 was to open in September 2003. It was under construction at 23rd Avenue and Terwillegar Drive.

Amyotte cited an eight-year California study that reviewed existing research and was released Oct. 11. It concluded that electromagnetic fields produced by overhead power lines and household appliances create risks of childhood leukemia, adult brain cancer and more miscarriages. Amyotte said the California study recommends electromagnetic field exposure at schools be similar to home exposure, between 0.7 milligauss and 1 milligauss -- the measure of the intensity of a magnetic field. Tests taken at the MacNeil school site measured between two and 2.2 milliigauss, she said. To be safe, the school should be built at least 400 metres from the power lines, the parents say.

But Koester insisted the site is safe. The board argued the school site is five times further away from power lines than many other schools, homes and businesses built in the city for the last quarter-century. Citing the same California study, Koester said the researchers merely recommend constructing buildings a distance of 150 feet from power lines. "The school site is over 350 feet from any power line," he added. Koester said the board is looking at launching a court appeal or asking city council to intervene. He noted the board was given the land by the city, which approved the plan to build a school on it.

Coun. Bryan Anderson said he and Coun. Karen Leibovici are meeting with city planning and development staff to see if they can compile enough research to develop guidelines on development near power lines.


School zoning can be changed -- mayor Parents' victory at development board may be brief:  SCHOOL-POWER LINE CONTROVERSY

Bill Mah, Civic Affairs Writer
The Edmonton Journal

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

A controversial school whose development permit was revoked last week by an appeal board could be put back on track by city council, Mayor  Bill Smith said Monday. "It's up to the developer to bring it back before us," Smith said. "We'll have a hearing and change the zoning."

The move could undo what was hailed as a victory last week when a group of parents successfully revoked the development permit of a school they argued was too close to high-voltage lines.

Edmonton Catholic Schools chairman Charlie Koester said the board has to abide by the development appeal board's decision. The board's director of facilities, Garnet McKee, said it has been told verbally the permit to build the school was revoked by the development appeal board, but "we are waiting until we get formal confirmation of the decision," he said.

The school board held a closed-door meeting Monday night, but the district will not comment on the issue until the board reviews the written decision, which is to be released Nov. 8.

Should the parents lose their battle, one of the parents vowed to keep fighting the development. "If council was to rezone it in their favour, then our fight with the city is over," said Lisa Amyotte. "But I'm definitely pushing for regulations at a provincial level. This is an issue we can't afford to ignore."

Since January, the parents have fought Edmonton Catholic Schools' plan to build a school about 108 metres from overhead power lines. It's under construction at a field near 23rd Avenue and Terwillegar Drive. The parents say the school should be at least 400 metres from the wires. Armed with experts' letters, the parents argue the proximity poses a health risk, but city council twice upheld the development.

The parents point to a California study that concludes electromagnetic fields produced by overhead power lines and household appliances create risks of childhood leukemia, adult brain cancer and more risk of miscarriages.

The school board insists the site is safe. It cites the same study, saying the researchers merely recommend constructing schools a distance of 150 feet from power lines. The school site is more than 350 feet from power lines, it adds.

As a last resort, the parents appealed to the subdivision and development appeal board, a quasi-judicial panel appointed by council that rules on disputes under zoning and subdivision bylaws. And in a decision that surprised many, including Coun. Stephen Mandel, the board agreed with the parents last Thursday and revoked the school's development permit.

It left Mandel wondering whether the board was stepping on council's toes. "If council gives someone zoning, why would another agency in the city usurp that authority? "If council makes a determination of zoning, what does the subdivision and development appeal board see as their role? Their role is to  interpret what we're saying. It's pretty difficult not to interpret that we've given them the zoning."

However, the mayor said the development appeal board was within its rights to uphold the appeal.

Council rezoned the school site from agricultural zoning to urban reserve zone, in which schools are a discretionary use. But under the Municipal Government Act, the development appeal board has more discretion to consider factors such as health and safety issues.

Smith said the school board can come back to council and apply for rezoning under the designation of urban service zone. He believes the development is safe. "This was three people that brought this forward with all good intentions," Smith said. "Because it was discretionary, the DAB decided to set it aside. I think we have thousands of people living near these situations. I think to myself,  'it's ridiculous.' "

Koester said the district is reviewing its options. City and school board officials, he said Monday, were conducting "intense" negotiations. "We didn't choose this land," Koester said. The city provided the land, and city council rezoned the land to allow the school. In another development, the city began an investigation Monday on why construction had begun on the site while the development was being appealed.

Mark Garrett, manager of the city's development compliance branch, said the results of the investigation should be known within two days.

Coun. Bryan Anderson said city planning and development sent an inspector to the site on Monday to confirm construction was taking place. They would  request that construction stop; however, if that did not happen they would issue a stop work order.

About $200,000 worth of construction has gone into the site.

Concrete footings and foundation walls are already up.


Informant for both messages: Don Maisch

Citizens' Initiative Omega
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