Industrial development requires long-term resolve
| Posted: Saturday, Jan 26, 2013 06:00 am
The city cleared a significant hurdle this week in its ongoing pursuit of more light industrial development, but the real challenge lies several months down the road and, in fact, will be ongoing for years to come.
On Monday, after months in the works, city council officially placed a light industrial designation on the 617-acre “employment lands” along the west side of Ray Gibbon Drive. This decision signifies that the city is committed to seeing more industrial development happen and sends a clear signal to landowners.
However, it's one thing to put a colour on a planning map and something else entirely to foster investment in the desired type of development. Which is why the more crucial decision is coming up in June when city council will vote on a list of proposed incentives aimed at spurring light industrial development.
Unfortunately, this is an issue that creates an adversarial relationship between the city and landowners, rather than presenting a win-win scenario that politicians love. On one side is the city's desire to see more of a certain type of development. On the other side are landowners with their own objective of maximizing their return, which typically comes from residential development.
Historically, landowners in St. Albert have been willing and able to win the battle by remaining idle for long periods, outwaiting one or more councils until they encounter a group who's willing to give them what they want – approval of a residential development.
This recurring scenario has contributed to St. Albert being a community without a significant industrial base, leaving residents to shoulder a much greater proportion of the overall tax burden than in more balanced municipalities. For residents who want to see property tax relief in St. Albert, developing a stronger industrial base should be a top priority.
Over the last year or so, starting with last year's hiring of city manager Patrick Draper, the city has made a systematic series of decisions and restructuring efforts aimed at putting a stronger and more consistent emphasis on economic development. City administration and council are demonstrating a resolve that's not been seen before, which is a positive sign.
The current council, and particularly Mayor Nolan Crouse, appear to be committed to being the council that draws a firm line in the sand.
Unfortunately, history has proven that the resolve of a city council can quickly dissolve, particularly if several of the seats change occupants. This is why industrial land development must be one of the key issues in the municipal election slated for next fall.
This isn’t to say that members of the current council deserve to be re-elected because of their demonstrated commitment to industrial development, but voters should assess all potential candidates for their level of commitment to this issue.
Any time now, candidates will begin to announce their intention to run. When election time rolls around, it will be up to voters to install a council that will have the backbone to carry on what's been started.