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City and developer remain deadlocked over Highland Park development

Groups advocating for the preservation of a northwest Calgary creek believe a statement of defence from the city solidifies their claim.

The City of Calgary filed a statement of defence on Feb. 8, 2021 in response to a lawsuit filed by Highland Park developer Ajay Nehru, president of Vancouver-based Maple Ventures.

Nehru’s claims, which haven’t yet been proven in court, alleges that the City has delayed the development and knew the area was unsuitable for the project.

The suit for $113 million was first filed in January 2021. Nehru’s company first purchased the former Highland Park golf course in 2013. City council approved a rezoning of the area in 2017 for a mixed-use development. Groups have been advocating for years to have the watercourse in the area officially recognized – and therefore protected – as a creek. Confederation Creek.

The city’s statement denies most of the lawsuit claims. The City said the unsuitability of the valley for housing development has been apparent since a 1970 caveat, and that the land and creek acts as a catchall for excess stormwater

CoC Stmt of Defence by Darren Krause

Statement brings promising news

Elise Bieche, the President of the Highland Park Community Association said the community wants this chapter to close.

“I wish that the city and the developer could just come to terms around what it’s going to cost for the city to purchase it and I think that there’s going to take a certain amount of trust and reasonability from both parties,” said Bieche.

Bieche said that while the majority of the community simply wants a decision, there are some who are adamantly opposed to development. Others are on board with the housing plan. 

“It has a creek and it’s in the inner city. What can you do within all of those boundaries?” said Bieche.

Bieche also hopes that should the city repurchase the land, that they don’t overpay. Bieche said she feels there’s a responsible limit for what the land is worth. 

“That’s money that could be spent on other things. That could be money that would be spent on daylighting the creek or maybe that’s money that could go to a transit pass system. Whatever the case may be, there are finite dollars, let’s make sure that we’re responsible with them.”

Future still uncertain for Highland Valley Park

Should the City buy the valley, they could still use it to manage excess stormwater. However, the future of Confederation Creek is much less certain.

Simone Lee, the president of the Friends of Confederation Creek, says that the City’s statement shed some light on the state of the valley.

“One of the realizations that we saw in the Statement of Claim, was that the city is developing their stormwater drainage survey of the whole catchment of Confederation Creek. And it’s an enormous catchment. It’s the largest catchment in Calgary,” said Lee.

Despite its importance as a water collection system, currently, the body of water isn’t legally recognized as a creek.

“If the creek were declared a creek, the Crown could claim up to 60 meters (30 on each side), and that would effectively be the entire valley,” said Lee.

However the fate of the creek will remain a balancing act. The group would like the water brought to the surface and a more natural state of the area returned.

“We also have to be careful because in an attempt to improve water quality, one of the proposals might be to build a water filtration plant. And that’s really not what we want. There are more natural and beautiful solutions,” said Lee.