Economic growth in St. Albert worries some, excites others
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 06:00 am
The chair of St. Albert Public Schools is worried that population growth and residential development in the city will cause a shortage of schools.
Joan Trettler voiced her concerns at a question and answer period during Tuesday’s Economic Development Business Breakfast.
She later told the Gazette that city planning needs to consider all elements of growth.
“I think there is a huge emphasis on the economic development and I think we have to make sure that we address other areas as well,” Trettler said.
The breakfast gave a detailed look at current and future residential, commercial and industrial developments in St. Albert.
Guy Boston, executive director of economic development, said St. Albert will see several new developments, such as the construction of a new neighbourhood in South Riel, as well as several other housing and apartment-type developments across the city.
The city is also expected to grow from a population of 60,000 to about 90,000 in the next 25 years.
Trettler said economic development is important but with only 10 per cent of land set aside in new developments for public use, space for schools is limited.
“By the time you provide parks and walkways like we expect in St. Albert, there isn’t much room for a development of other public buildings, such as schools,” she said.
She added that both of the city’s school boards are to meet city administrators later in the year.
“I do think administration is working on it. I think that other things have just had more importance and I think that it will be dealt with,” she said.
“We still have sites we haven’t used. We just need to make sure that we plan for that.”
While some worry about future expansions, others view the prospect of growth with excitement.
Doris Vandersteen, executive director for the St. Albert Housing Society, said the breakfast was very encouraging considering the need for housing in the city.
“I think council continued to have housing options as one of their priorities so I was very happy to hear that it is continuing to be a focus,” she said.
She added that it was important to understand the link between economic development and social wellbeing in the city.
The latest capital region report said that St. Albert needs an estimated 2,000 new rental units to accommodate the need for housing in the city.
Vandersteen said a large number of seniors, workers and students wanted to move to or remain in the community in the past but lacked the opportunity.
Planning for more high-density apartment units and smaller lots sizes – as noted by Boston – would help accommodate these people.
“Several businesses are saying it is hard for their employees to find a place to live within reasonable commuting distance,” Vandersteen said.
“I think it will make it much easier for businesses to attract employees and to retain employees.”
The breakfast also heard plans for major commercial and industrial developments, such as the arrival of a new retailer at the north end of the city (identified as Costco by the Gazette) and 140 acres of land in South Riel recently bought by GWL Realty Advisors.
Lynda Moffat, president and CEO of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, said economic development in the city is finally moving in the right direction.
“To see this, it’s just everything we asked for and we worked so hard for so long and this is just wow … ,” she said.
Town of Morinville Mayor Paul Krauskopf said St. Albert’s development would have a big impact on his community, especially with the arrival of some big box retailers.
He remained vague whether his community will benefit from St. Albert’s growth.
“We certainly always have to keep in mind, we can’t forget that Sturgeon County is between Morinville and St. Albert,” he said.
“There has to be some kind of collaboration there. That’s not quite there yet, but it’s coming.”