Dun­ve­gan Dis­tress

Dun­ve­gan clos­ing down­town re­tail space on Dec. 23.

Fort McMurray Today - - FRONT PAGE - VIN­CENT MC­DER­MOTT vm­c­der­[email protected]­media.com

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.”

VIN­CENT MC­DER­MOTT/FORT MC­MUR­RAY TO­DAY

Fam­i­lies visit a pet­ting zoo at Dun­ve­gan Gar­dens, lo­cated south of Fort Mc­mur­ray, Alta., dur­ing an Easter egg hunt on Satur­day March 26, 2016.

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