Why the RM of Sherwood blocked a little mosque from its prairie

City Hall | by Paul Dechene

Wondering why the RM of Sherwood kiboshed a proposed mosque? Hoping to see an upstart railway facility challenge the Global Transportation Hub for the intermodal championship? Look no further — you will find satisfaction below.

Sherwood On The Level (Crossings)

At its Sept. 25 meeting, council approved a zoning change for Tuxedo Park that would allow a mosque to open there.

But, as reported in “Industrial Zoned Religion” (from “Pits And Garbage” in the Sept. 28 2017 Prairie Dog), before settling on a location in Tuxedo Park, the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan had been trying since 2012 to build a mosque and community centre on a plot of land they owned just outside the City Of Regina in the Rural Municipality of Sherwood.

But the RM of Sherwood repeatedly turned that application down.

What gives? According to Jeff Poissant, reeve of the RM of Sherwood, while the RM’s planning department did recommend approval for the Islamic Association’s application, the mosque was unanimously rejected by his council for a combination of reasons.

“It doesn’t fit the area. The area is all low-density residential right now. And that’s kind of what we’d like to remain it as,” says Poissant. “As well, such a large development, be it a mosque, a church, a store, anything of that nature, it comes with a large traffic impact and especially as of late, the big thing is safety on roadways. We didn’t want to see such a huge impact on a level crossing that those residents use to get in and out of their homes.”

According to Poissant, only four or five Sherwood households would have been directly impacted by the IAS development. And input from that handful of “ratepayers” factored into his council’s decision to nix the mosque plan.

Did racism and Islamophobia factor into the opposition to the mosque application?

“Not at all. We didn’t hear any of that come up whatsoever throughout our discussions,” says Poissant. “Even the neighbours said that if [the IAS] wanted to build houses, we’d welcome them with open arms into our community.”

The land on which the IAS hoped to build the mosque lies within the Joint Planning Area, a buffer zone between the City of Regina and the RM. Within the JPA, both the City and RM are supposed to work together to advance common growth and development objectives.

And, in June 2016, city manager Chris Holden sent a letter to the IAS indicating city administration support for the mosque application.

So, did Sherwood’s rejection of the mosque undermine the goodwill that underpins the smooth functioning of the JPA?

“I don’t believe so,” says Poissant. “We made it pretty clear why we denied the application. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for that area. And like I said, we did try to help [the IAS] with finding a better location. But obviously they didn’t want to deal with us anymore, which is unfortunate. We’ve got a pretty good relationship with the city now. We’ve been working on that quite a bit over the last years.”

Global Hub 2: Transportation Boogaloo

Stop me if this sounds familiar.

“This is a tremendous opportunity,” said Mayor Michael Fougere of an intermodal railway facility planned for the edge of the city. “We’re going to be talking about access to markets that we never had before. Logistics, moving primary agricultural products and value-added products to world markets. This is tremendous. I mean, the rail lines you’ve heard about tonight, to the U.S., to western Canada to the east coast and north to Saskatoon, for both primary supply and for the value-added, it’s just a win-win all around.”

A classic council cut? A flashback to the late ’00s and all the optimistic talk of the Global Transportation Hub? Nope. It’s Mayor Fougere speaking about a New! intermodal logistics and transportation facility planned for the Chuka Creek Business Park, which council approved at their Sept. 25 meeting.

So what’s so different about this New! railway intermodal facility? Well, unlike the GTH, which juts out from the city’s western edge, the Chuka Creek project will hang down along the city’s eastern side.

See? Different!

Plus, while the GTH provides logistics and intermodal service for CP Rail, the New! project will offload and reload shipping containers transported by CN Rail, a totally different company. And CN Rail, the nation’s largest railroad by revenue, moves the majority of shipping container in Canada.

Wait… CN’s the largest railroad? But I thought the GTH was supposed to be… never mind.

Another crucial difference: The provincial government won’t be involved in the Chuka Creek intermodal facility.

Well, that’s cause for optimism.

Still, much of council’s boosterism for this “truly transformational” (Fougere’s words) project sounds eerily familiar to the sales pitch for the GTH. And the GTH has… underwhelmed. So why should the city expect more from this New! intermodal facility?

“I won’t speak to the GTH because it’s under provincial jurisdiction in terms of how it’s being run and what its business plan is — which is something different from when we had the land and jurisdiction, it was different,” said Fougere. “This one is more focused on primary production for agricultural products. It can expand to something different later on. But as when we first had discussion of the GTH years ago, there was lots of promise there as well.

“But I think given the really tight definition of what this [Chuka Creek project] will look like, it looks very good right now and we’re very positive, very pleased with it.” ❧