Capital Region Board kills two Sturgeon County developments
Board structure questioned after defeat of plans for Villeneuve and Sturgeon Valley acreages
By: By Ryan Tumilty
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 15, 2012 06:00 am
Proposals for an acreage development in the Sturgeon Valley and a dramatic expansion of the Villeneuve hamlet were both defeated as urban municipalities in the region voted against both at the Capital Region Board (CRB) last week.
In both cases Sturgeon received the support of a majority of the municipalities at the board, but failed to win the vote of urban communities, including Edmonton and St. Albert. The CRB's voting model requires that a motion receive approval of two-thirds of municipalities, which must also represent 75 per cent of the region's population. This effectively gives Edmonton a veto over any decision.
The plan for Villeneuve would have seen the community gradually grow over the coming decades to a population of nearly 6,000. The new residential development was meant to help pay the costs of expanded water and sewer infrastructure to the hamlet. Expansion of industrial land at the Villeneuve Airport is dependent on the expansion of those services. The county received 18 of 24 votes in favour of its plan, but lost because it did not include major population centres like Edmonton and St. Albert.
The board also voted down a proposal for a 79-lot acreage development, called the Estates of Tuscany, in Sturgeon Valley. That vote had 20 municipalities onside, but also failed to attract support from Edmonton and St. Albert.
Sturgeon Mayor Don Rigney said both decisions show the board is obsessed with rigid planning, despite market demands.
“If the people at the board were in charge of a graveyard they would ask people to stop dying until they got the perfect plan in place,” he said.
CRB staff recommended the board reject the Villeneuve plan, because it called for development that is less dense than other areas in the Capital region. With the Edmonton Municipal Airport having been closed in part because of the dense community that has sprung up around it, it makes no sense to have dense development around Villeneuve, Rigney argued.
“We are going to put that same amount of density around another airport? Is anyone thinking logically here?” he said.
County officials told the board the county has spent nearly two years and almost $225,000 creating the Villeneuve plan. Rigney said he was especially disappointed that both proposals got the support of the majority, but were still defeated.
“It makes us and rural municipalities second class citizens in Alberta. I don't think that is acceptable to the citizens in our community,” he said.
St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse said expanding Villeneuve, which is not within the areas the CRB has identified for growth, doesn't make sense, which is why he voted against Sturgeon’s applications.
“There are only so many dollars to go around and when you are trying to make an impact with improving the current growth areas why would you want to create a new one,” he said. “Why would you want to create a new growth area?”
Edmonton councillor Ed Gibbons said both of Sturgeon's applications fell outside of the board’s vision for the region.
“They don't want to follow the rules. They have to follow the rules,” he said.
He said the entire region needs to densify and it is not enough for only cities to try to create more sustainable communities.
“That is telling me that they will take all our million dollar residences and we keep the inner cities going with affordable housing,” he said.
On the Villeneuve plan, he said he doesn’t understand why the airport can’t move forward without residential development.
Larry Andrews of Landrex Developers, which had planned a development in Villeneuve, said he was disappointed with the decision even though the community is only a small part of the company’s holdings.
“I would ask what the concern, legitimately, of St. Albert is and does that outweigh the benefit of having the airport there?” he said.
If the board’s structure continues to stop any development outside of Edmonton, it will only limit choice and ultimately lead to higher housing costs, he said.
“The structure of the Capital Region Board is such a disaster that unless you have Edmonton onside it really doesn't matter what the rest think,” he said. “This thing is structurally flawed and it is going to create a lot of angst in the region.”