Letter to the Mayor and Council of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo
By Phil Jean, Fort McMurray resident
Thank you for having such an open discussion at the council meeting on Tuesday (June 14). Not an easy time for any of us.
1. Why are Waterways, Beacon Hill, and Abasand targeted and Stone Creek and Wood Buffalo exempt from the moratorium on building? The same forest fire, same type of housing (except larger and closer together) and the same complete devastation to the neighbourhood.
2. It was inferred last night that some areas might not be able to be rebuilt because of toxins. Forest fires occur all over North America every year and residential areas are affected. This is not new. Where is there a precedent of toxins from a forest fire preventing rebuilding in a residential area? Not Slave Lake, not Kelowna, not Stone Creek or Wood Buffalo.
3. As you know, Waterways is the second oldest area in McMurray. Our family has had a presence in Waterways since 1977 and I can assure council that only ten or fifteen per cent of the buildings that were burnt in the 2016 fire were there before 1980. Unlike other residential areas in Fort McMurray, Waterways has seen continuing change with new residential buildings. To somehow infer that these few buildings would generate enough toxins to contaminate the area to prevent residents from rebuilding is beyond probability. All areas, including Stone Creek and Wood Buffalo would be subject to the same toxins. Why are they exempted?
4. Permits should be issued for rebuilding NOW, so that we can arrange contracts and builders for construction to begin immediately after clean-up is complete. We cannot afford to lose three months of construction season because of delays in paperwork and permits. Home owners need to be in a position to begin rebuilding immediately access is given to the areas. If this can be done at Stone Creek it can be done in Waterways, Abasand and Beacon Hill. If rebuilding is not started immediately we will have a further blow to the economy of our city.
5. Mayor and Councillors, imagine yourself having lost everything you own except the clothes on your back. How stressful this would be. The additional stress of having your elected officials not assuring you that you could rebuild on your own property adds immeasurably to the stress of the terrible situation you are in. In addition, there are rumours all over town that we are not allowed to build in our area.
6. I would like a commitment from each one of you, as my elected officials that you will do everything in your power to expedite the rebuilding of homes for those of us who choose to do so in the three designated areas. I am expecting a reply.