Dunvegan closing downtown retail space on Dec. 23.
Dunvegan Gardens is closing its retail operations on Dec. 23, months after council rejected bylaw amendments that would allow the business to expand its commercial operations in Draper.
The business announced it would be closing its retail business on Fraser Avenue in a Monday afternoon Facebook post. In an interview, owner Brad Friesen blamed Wood Buffalo’s mayor and council for the decision.
“When you have a petition with 15,000 people supporting you, it’s a slap in their face to go against what the people want,” he said. “It’s the mayor and council who need to be held accountable for this, as far as I’m concerned.”
Friesen says Dunvegan’s landscaping business, which is based in the Prairie Creek Industrial Park, will not be affected.
The final few weeks will have Christmas markets and extra vendors each weekend leading up to Christmas. Photos with Santa will also continue on Dec. 8 and Dec. 15 between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
After that, the doors will close. The market garden in Draper is still for sale after it hit the market in June. Royal Lepage’s asking price is currently at $2.2 million.
“If people would ask me if they should move to Fort Mcmurray with a business, I would say not a chance,” said Friesen. “There’s a lot of business people in Fort Mcmurray who would echo what I just said.”
Dunvegan dispute goes back years
The proposed amendments, which were rejected by council in May, would have allowed the operation of a commercial greenhouse at Dunvegan Gardens, as well as more outdoor events, petting zoos, and a country store and market.
The motion polarized residents. So many written statements and submissions were given that the agenda for the council meeting was more than 2,000 pages. Dozens of supporters and critics spoke at council’s public meeting, pushing the session until 2 a.m.
For years, opponents said administration was too lenient on enforcing bylaws on the business and accused Dunvegan of regularly flouting regulations.
A vocal group of local residents opposed the traffic Dunvegan’s existence brought, particularly during community events. Some residents said they would be willing to work with the business to find a compromise. Others felt a consensus was impossible.
Supporters argued Dunvegan Gardens was a valuable place to bring families and community events. They also argued there was nothing else like Dunvegan Gardens in the Wood Buffalo region, and replacing it would likely never happen if the business left.
Of the nine councillors that voted on the motion, only Coun. Phil Meagher was supportive. Councillors Krista Balsom and Keith Mcgrath were absent.
A motion proposed by Mayor Don Scott to have administration work with Dunvegan Gardens was also defeated, with only Meagher and Scott supportive.
Roberto Noce, who was acting as legal council for Dunvegan Gardens, argued it would “be the beginning of the end” for the company if the motions were not approved.
“The 23rd will be a bad day. I know a lot of people who enjoyed it,” said Meagher on Monday. “I always said in council that Dunvegan doesn’t need us, we needed Dunvegan to make this a place you can call home.”
Families visit a petting zoo at Dunvegan Gardens, located south of Fort Mcmurray, Alta., during an Easter egg hunt on Saturday March 26, 2016.