So long 2000s, you were so kind to us here at the St. Albert Gazette.
There was no shortage of local news during the last decade, especially when it came to city hall. St. Albert started the decade with 51,716 residents and a council that was preoccupied with creating a long-term vision for growth.
As we leave the decade, 58,501 residents call St. Albert home, and council is still preoccupied with growth, though covering a much larger area.
Here’s a look at some of the top issues from city hall over the last decade.
In May, council approves CityPlan, a long-term blueprint for growth. The plan includes extensive public input and recommendations — the most controversial being a move to scrap the west bypass alignment in favour of a river crossing at Riel Drive.
Richard Plain defeats incumbent Paul Chalifoux and John Shaw for the mayor’s chair in the 2001 election. All incumbent councillors are swept from office as the public chooses five of six candidates who support a west bypass alignment.
The debate over the west bypass spans 30 years, but reignites during the CityPlan review and spills over as the election issue in 2001. The Richard Plain council of 2001-04 restores the west bypass alignment that became Ray Gibbon Drive.
Fresh off creating a blueprint for St. Albert, the city and Sturgeon County worked together to plot out long-term land uses for a 2,666-hectare area bordering St. Albert. The intermunicipal development plan also sets a framework for future annexations.
In the waning months of Paul Chalifoux’s first mayoral term, Sturgeon County agrees to St. Albert’s bid to annex 48 hectares near Villeneuve Road, now home to the Wal-Mart power centre. The annexation deal includes a revenue-sharing component that later proves to be a stumbling block to future annexation talks.
St. Albert wants to annex a larger 1,336-hectare slice of Sturgeon County for residential growth, however both councils cannot agree on terms. Sturgeon wants a $15-million share of property tax revenues, a similar percentage to the 2001 Wal-Mart deal; St. Albert counters at $1 million. In 2003 the city files an annexation application with the Municipal Government Board (MGB). After mediation fails, the MGB orders St. Albert to pay Sturgeon $800,000 in tax revenues over 10 years. The Feb. 14, 2007 decision increases St. Albert’s area by about a third.
Following the demise of regional planning commissions in the 1990s, 22 municipalities in the Capital region work with Lou Hyndman to create a new model for regional co-operation and service sharing. The report goes nowhere and the province rejects Hyndman’s major recommendations, mandatory membership in a regional partnership.
The St. Albert Saints leave town after 27 seasons of Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) play. The Saints move to Spruce Grove after team ownership grows frustrated by the city’s inability to build a new arena.
Paul Chalifoux returns for his second term as mayor after defeating incumbent Richard Plain and Lynda Moffat. Voters also approve, via plebiscite, construction of a multi-purpose leisure centre. Nolan Crouse is elected to his first term as councillor.
In a tight plebiscite vote, St. Albert voters approve the construction of a multi-purpose leisure centre in Campbell Park at a guaranteed maximum price of $43 million. Some 54.9 per cent vote in favour, ending years of debate over the location and cost. The new facility is touted as an eventual break-even venture.
In May a local citizen discovers a rusty orange pool of liquid — a mix of chemicals and groundwater from the former Riel landfill — near the banks of the Sturgeon River in Riel Park. The federal Department of Oceans and Fisheries investigates and the city is ordered to remediate the landfill by 2013.
Ralph Klein’s government wants no part of the issue, but council in 2004 decides to make smokers butt out in public places. The bylaw takes effect in July 2005.
Akinsdale, Heritage Lakes and Grandin residents aren’t happy after they learn the northwest ring road will come within 50 metres of some neighbourhood homes. The alignment eventually moves further south after the province buys Newman College. Construction starts in 2008 and will wrap up by fall 2011.
Following the February annexation, council embarks upon a “limited update” of the municipal development plan. The growth blueprint aims for denser neighbourhoods with a greater housing mix. It also creates three ‘future study areas’ in the annexed lands that could become industrial parks.
Nolan Crouse wins a three-way mayoral race, defeating former mayor Richard Plain and local businessman Garry Woo.
Servus Credit Union Place loses $2.2 million after its first full year of operations — eight times more than budgeted. Council receives the news just days after the 2007 election and creates a public task force to review operations, eventually approving 30 of 31 recommendations. The review recognizes the facility provides a “social good,” cementing ongoing taxpayer subsidies.
The city and province come to terms on a funding deal that will reimburse St. Albert $45 million for Ray Gibbon Drive, a future provincial highway. The terms took two years to negotiate, dating back to a fall 2007 discussion between Premier Ed Stelmach and Paul Chalifoux. The city is still waiting for the payout.
City council gives the green light to replace Grandin mall with a $450-million urban village. The plan features five high-rise towers between 15 and 19 storeys, along with commercial, office and residential space for 2,000 people. It’s the second redevelopment plan in three years as an earlier urban village model fizzles in 2005.
Amid turmoil at the Alberta Capital Region Alliance, Premier Ed Stelmach tasks former deputy environment minister Doug Radke to find a solution to regional co-operation. Radke’s report leads to the creation of the Capital Region Board (CRB). The new board includes 25 member municipalities and is working on solutions to common land-use, transit, affordable housing and other service issues.
During the municipal development plan update, city council gives the go-ahead to develop ‘smart growth’ guidelines for development in the annexation area. The details are released to the public in spring 2009 and call for more walkable, transit-oriented neighbourhoods. A report about the financial implications of smart growth goes to council on Jan. 4, 2010.
Mayor Nolan Crouse creates a new task force charged with making the downtown a more economically vibrant hub. The task force recommends 16 key changes to the downtown, including more parking, a central plaza and closing St. Anne Street to traffic. Council’s downtown vision will not be completed until June 2010.
Bryan Alary is an editor at the Gazette. Read his Civic Matters blog at www.stalbertgazette.com.