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Development - At Any Cost?

This is a story that needs to be told. It's a story of a small town, Stony Mountain, Manitoba, where the author resides. A place where the charm lies in its quiet streets, peaceful evenings, and the sense of community that comes from knowing your neighbors. But it's also a cautionary tale, one that we hope, by sharing, you'll ensure doesn't become your story.



“The most basic question is not what is best but who shall decide what is best.” Thomas Sowell


This is my story. I hope that by sharing it, you will make sure it is not your story.


I live in Stony Mountain, Manitoba, a small town of just less than 2000 residents.



I live here because I value what our little town has to offer - quiet streets and peaceful evenings; neighbours mostly known and respected; homes that are unique and diverse, each one an individual reflection of the family that lives there. Traffic is slow and sparse. Children play safely, riding their bikes on the streets, free to roam. There’s always someone walking a dog somewhere.


We all live here because we enjoy the life our small rural town offers.


Now, imagine, if you will, that in only two or three years, the population here will explode to almost 3000. Do you think this quiet little town will still exist as it is now?


Quite frankly, that’s just not possible.


And yet, without regard for the peaceful nature of our town, our local Council bureaucrats approved a development plan that includes a total of 210 houses to be built in an estimated 4 year period. As of the 2021 census, there were 438 private houses in the town, so the total number of houses will increase by almost 50% to at least 648, and some of the proposed housing will be multi-family dwellings, so we can expect the population to increase by more than 50%.


This is what the Area Used to Look Like


And incredibly, this happened with absolutely no input from 99% of the people who live here.


How is it that the vast majority can be so easily ignored?


The rules are clearly designed to involve the minimum number of people possible in the decision making process.  The Rural Municipal Council is required to inform only the residents who have property adjacent to any proposed development projects. In our situation, this meant that approximately 8 homeowners were invited to an ‘informational meeting’. Less than 1% of the town’s citizens were given the opportunity to participate in the meeting.


The reality was that 99% of the people who live here were unaware of the development plans until the massive equipment began rolling into town and the deal was done. The residents who did attend the meeting voiced their concerns and were solidly against the proposal, but were completely disregarded by Council members and their concerns were never addressed.


This is a story that is being repeated in many towns and communities throughout Manitoba.


We have become victims of the fantasy that uncontrolled growth is the only way forward and that unlimited expansion equals prosperity and a better standard of living for all.


This is What It Looks Like Now


This mindless political obsession to grow, without regard for the residents of the communities involved, is narrow minded at best and self destructive at worst.


If our small town continues to expand, it will eventually eat its own tail and vanish into the bowels of Winnipeg. Today, we are only a few developments away from this very thing happening.


The shortsightedness of these policies is difficult to comprehend and we should not be tolerating such foolishness.


Currently there are three large development projects underway or posted around the town of Stony Mountain. One of the largest, most intrusive and truly devastating projects began almost two years ago, and because it is so close, only 4 blocks from Main Street, it has affected everyone who lives here.


This unique piece of property consisted almost entirely of pristine woodland that had been untouched for many decades. It was a beautiful ecosphere that was home to a wonderful diversity of wildlife and included hundreds of magnificent trees.


In the spring of ’22, the machines arrived and began mercilessly destroying this priceless ecosystem. Huge trees were ripped from the ground and pushed into grotesque piles or buried in the mud. A massive hole was dug, at least 40 feet deep, and half the side of a hill was scraped away.


It was heartbreaking to witness the carnage and the complete disregard for life.


The entire town was dismayed, shocked and angered.  Many, many phone calls were made to try to save the trees, to no effect. Students in the school were said to be in tears some days. This has traumatized our town.


There were many options that could have been explored, if the Council had shown any concern and respect for the people who pay their salary. Total destruction was not the only choice.


Our town has been stolen from us and sold to the highest bidder. The Council members that we voted for, gave our trust to, have betrayed us. Only one of them lives here, the rest do not have to live with what they have done.


This kind of complete disregard for the people they represent, the people whose trust they hold, has to end. The mindless mantra that ‘growth is good’ has to end, or at least be tempered with common sense and consideration for those who will be most impacted by these massive development projects.


We cannot allow ‘Development at any cost’ to continue. It will destroy our communities, which form the solid fabric of our society. It will ultimately destroy our province, because without the strength of rural communities, Manitoba’s prosperous future becomes questionable and there may be little to offer our children and our grandchildren in the years to come.


How do we change this? How do we ensure that this does not happen in your town or your community?


You are reading this, so you already know the answer.


“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” Helen Keller


We can find the power we need to make these changes, to make all level of government accountable and approachable, by becoming active members of Manitoba Stronger Together.


With MST, we can find and support local councillors who will listen to us and invite our participation in all their decisions.


What has happened here, in Stony Mountain, should never have happened. In a true democratic society, ALL the people who live here would have been given an opportunity to take part in the discussions regarding any development proposals and would have been made aware of  any possible impact on the community.


If the majority of the community does not want unlimited expansion, does not want the entire nature of their town changed, is not interested in accumulating massive new sources of taxation, then the Municipal Council members must NOT proceed with the proposed plans. Their own personal agendas must be of no regard when it comes to their actions as politicians.


Manitoba Stronger Together has the potential to bring real Democracy back to our towns, our rural municipalities, our cities and our province, and its power lies with you.


Your participation, your vote, your enthusiasm, your commitment, your hope for a better future, we can do this, together. We can do this.


Manitoba is stronger together.


Take part in this movement, get involved. Start caring about your community and your future within it. Make sure your town is growing and thriving in a way YOU want it to.


Protect your home and your family from the self interest of thoughtless politicians by taking back your power and using your vote to create, and keep, the community you want.


Before it’s too late.


It’s too late here. The land has been destroyed, the town has been irrevocably changed and will never be the same. The trees are dead, the birds and animals are gone. And so are some of the people who called this place home because they loved it, just the way it was.


“Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could only do a little.” Edmond Burk


 

About the Author:

Janet McQueen, a dedicated Stony Mountain resident and an active member of Manitoba Stronger Together, is a relentless advocate for personal freedom and responsibility. Feel free to share your thoughts and comments at the end of this blog post. Your input is valued.

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