Friday, July 14, 2006

Letter to the editor - December 23, 2005

River Landing process sidelines city residents

The StarPhoenix

Friday, December 23, 2005

Mayor Don Atchison claims the spa hotel will be "something that we're all going to be proud of." How can citizens feel a sense of pride and ownership in a development whose process has excluded them from meaningful participation?

As far back as September 2003 Atchison said he wanted a spa hotel on the Gathercole site. The entire process has been hypocritical, heavy handed and top-down, driven by the mayor's office.

Remai Ventures' proposal was on display at City Hall for public feedback in June. Only 13 input forms were filled out -- six were positive, six were negative, and one was neutral. This is hardly a ringing endorsement.

Atchison said there would be no tax breaks or subsidies on the hotel site, and that the city must receive every dollar the land is worth. Those promises were broken. Remai, the only proponent, had the city over a barrel.

Council says it has been open and transparent. Since October 2003, however, the city's executive committee has conducted approximately 20 special closed-door meetings and, despite numerous freedom of information requests, the city continues to deny public access to hundreds of pages of River Landing documents. Why the secrecy?

In January 2004 Atchison said he did not support spending public money on the Gathercole site, yet the three most recent capital budgets show nearly $17 million being earmarked there. The historic Gathercole Building would have required $11.8 million to restore, including roads, servicing and landscaping. The public was duped.

As a playground for the rich, River Landing likely will offer average and low-income families one affordable activity -- walking. It took decades for the city to acquire the Gathercole land for something special. In less than two years council has privatized it and turned it into a horror show.

Joe Kuchta

© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2005


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