Regional planning is essential
By: Ken Allred
| Posted: Saturday, Mar 09, 2013 06:00 am
A couple of recent issues have arisen concerning regional planning that I’m sure are of concern to local municipalities.
Firstly, Sturgeon County Mayor Don Rigney’s despise for regional planning is no secret. He has railed against the concept of regional planning since he was first elected to the county council simply because planning controls don’t allow him and his council to approve what they want, wherever they want it, without any concern for greater regional or provincial interests.
Mayor Rigney has labeled regional planning as “narrow-minded, short-term and pre-medieval” and claims that it kills growth. On the contrary, I would suggest that society has come out of medieval times with an understanding that it makes abundant sense to think ahead and plan future growth in order to mitigate the consequences of conflicting land uses.
The foresight in planning for the Industrial Heartland is a great example of the thought that has gone into planning for a regional industrial area in and adjacent to Sturgeon County. The Industrial Heartland plan will avoid helter-skelter industrial development throughout the region and concentrate heavy industry in one area where all industrial development can be regulated in consideration of the rights and interests of neighbouring land uses.
A more troubling issue and one that I’m sure the good mayor and I share is the issue of the veto power given to the City of Edmonton in the establishment of the Capital Region Board. By virtue of Edmonton’s veto, the CRB has recently quashed an industrial zoning plan proposed by Parkland County. Now I don’t pretend to know any of the details about the proposed zoning or whether the decision was made “to promote and protect their own self-interest,” as was attributed to Parkland mayor Rod Shaigec by the Edmonton Journal. But the principle of giving one municipality, even if it has 70 per cent of the population, an essential veto over regional decisions is just plain wrong and has serious implications for the future development of the region.
We have seen this again just this week where the City of Edmonton proposes to gobble up the International Airport and all of the lands between the existing south boundary of Edmonton and the airport. Here we go again!
As a comparative example of a regional governance model, the former Edmonton Metropolitan Regional Planning Commission, which I was privileged to chair until its dissolution by a former minister of municipal affairs, was composed of most of the same municipalities as the CRB but the City of Edmonton only controlled one third of the votes. The commission worked very well with full co-operation amongst all of the urban and rural member municipalities.
Regional planning is essential to ensure that our long-term growth is well thought out and co-ordinated between municipal and provincial entities.
It is also encouraging that through the auspices of the Land Use Framework that the province is now looking at a provincial plan to extend the scope of land use planning across the entire province.
All planning requires everyone to be at the table to consider all competing interests yet no one body – either the province or a single municipality – should have the power to veto a decision. We need collaboration, co-operation and, if not consensus, at least a fair and equitable decision-making process.
Ken Allred is a former St. Albert Alderman and MLA.