Sturgeon aims to divide county into neighbourhoods
Proposed municipal development plan looks to tailor future development to specific areas
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013 06:00 am
Sturgeon County’s future will look a lot more neighbourly under a proposed municipal development plan that splits the county into 10 different zones called neighbourhoods.
County residents got their first look at the final draft of the county’s new municipal development plan (MDP) at an open house Monday night. A second open house is planned for Wednesday night.
This plan has been in the works for three years, said Kristina Peter, senior long-term planner with the county, and will be presented to council for first reading on Feb. 12. If approved, it will guide all development in the region until 2044.
The county’s current MDP dates back to 1996, Peter said, and is pretty out of date: it doesn’t account for the Capital Region Board’s growth plan, doesn’t set out any goals for how the county should grow and doesn’t account for the 14,000 people expected to move to the county in the next 30 years.
“This is a complete rewrite from our 1996 document,” Peter said.
Unlike the old one, which was more of a glorified zoning plan, this one sets out overarching principles for how the county should run its government, protect the environment, attract industry and more, she said.
The old plan had essentially one development strategy for the whole county, said Coun. Tom Flynn, but that doesn’t work today – the lands around St. Albert should not look like the Alberta Industrial Heartland, for example.
“We have to try and find the right things to happen in the right places,” he said.
The draft plan divides the county into 10 “neighbourhoods” or zones lettered A through J based on social, cultural, geographic and economic features, Peter said, and sets an overarching goal for each based on its main strength.
Zone C (central Sturgeon) has lots of class one agricultural soil, for example, so it should be used to maintain the county’s strong agricultural base. Value-added industries and good soil conservation would be emphasized here.
In comparison, Zone A around Calahoo is too hilly for farms and lacks the infrastructure for major subdivisions, but does have the provincially significant Calahoo Bog and the scenic Glory Hills. As a result, the plan emphasizes smaller-scale rural living in this area.
Planners and councils will use these goals to guide future developments, Peter said. The county probably wouldn’t approve a bitumen upgrader in Zone F (the Sturgeon river valley), for example, as that area emphasizes floodplain and wildlife protection. Instead, it would steer developers towards Zone J near Redwater, which aims to be a major industrial job generator.
Likewise, a developer planning a major subdivision would be steered away from Zone J and towards zones G or H near Namao or St. Albert, as those are slated for more residential growth.
This kind of plan is long overdue, said Cardiff resident Susan Evans, as it will lead to more detailed regional plans and foster co-operation with governments such as Morinville and St. Albert.
“What it’s saying is, ‘This is how we’re envisioning that area,’” she said.
It also gives the county environmental direction, she said.
“In the past, we’ve seen developments in areas that are traditionally floodplains. (This is) saying, you know what? That’s probably not a good idea.”
She also approved of how the draft would preserve prime farmland in Zone C.
Information on the draft plan will be on display all week at the county office, with staff on hand to answer questions Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m., Peter said.
Copies of the draft can be found at the county office or mdp.sturgeoncounty.ab.ca. Questions should go to Collin Steffes at 780-939-8275.