Annexation talk dominates planning session
MDP sparks calls for "boundary adjustment"
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 13, 2013 05:00 pm
Government and business leaders had a clear message for Sturgeon County this week about its fringe areas with St. Albert: either manage them together or let St. Albert take them over.
County council held a six-hour public hearing on the new municipal development plan (MDP) Tuesday. Proposed revisions to the plan, which was last overhauled in 1996, divide the county into 10 “neighbourhoods” or zones based on social, cultural, geographic and economic features, and sets development goals for each.
Council received about 20 letters and presentations from local residents, businesses and governments about the MDP.
Many zoomed in on the fringe area north of St. Albert, which the MDP projected would more than double in size to 14,218 residents from the current 5,609 by 2042.
Known as Neighbourhood G, this area is meant for a mix of high-density residential development, particularly in the region north of St. Albert, and less dense clustered-county residential, particularly in the Sturgeon Valley. The MDP notes that this aligns with the Capital Region Board’s growth strategy for this region. Non-primary industry development in parts of this region would require “municipal infrastructure servicing.”
This would allow urban-style growth to happen close to St. Albert’s borders –something of “greatest concern” to St. Albert, said city Coun. Malcolm Parker, who was flanked by Mayor Nolan Crouse and city manager Patrick Draper.
This MDP would effectively fence in St. Albert to the north and prevent its expansion, Parker said in an interview. While the county has plenty of land to build on, St. Albert will have little once it fills the land it got from its last annexation.
“If (this) document is intended to lock St. Albert in,” Parker told council, “the concerns will be great. If you intend to propose new boundaries, we would likely view the MDP differently.”
Annexation is not the city’s first choice, he emphasized in an interview, and he hopes the two councils could work out an agreement.
“We want to sit down and work with Sturgeon County and have a positive working relationship,” he said.
The City of Edmonton opposed the MDP on similar grounds. In a letter to county council, Peter Ohm of Edmonton’s planning and environment department noted that Neighbourhood G had a proposed density of 30 to 45 units per hectare, and would require a “high degree of urbanization.”
“In Edmonton’s view, proposed Neighbourhood G should be developed as a continuous logical extension to existing urban development in St. Albert,” Ohm wrote, “not for the establishment of a new city in the Capital Region.”
Landrex president Troy Grant said his company isn’t confident that the county had the resources to provide urban-level servicing in this area, as it didn’t have the fire flows or hospitals needed.
“We are not confident that the MDP truly supports economic development in the area we are working,” Grant said.
Edmonton and St. Albert would likely oppose the plan at the Capital Region Board (which must approve it before it can be enacted) if the county did not work out a joint-servicing plan for this region, he said.
“Revenue sharing options or boundary adjustments may allow for this problem to be addressed,” he said.
When pressed by county Coun. Ken McGillis on this matter, Grant said it would be in Landrex’s best interest for an annexation to occur – conceivably one that would extend as far north as Highway 37.
“There doesn’t need to be a boundary adjustment,” Grant emphasized, but there does need to be a joint city-county plan to service this region.
David Bromley of Rampart Avenir Communities specifically requested that the county let St. Albert annex 190 acres on the west bank of Carrot Creek. (The land is adjacent to his company’s proposed development in northwest St. Albert.)
“It makes sense that this should be in the City of St. Albert,” he said, as it would be wholly serviced by that city. This is a small piece of land, he continued, and it would be easier to add it to St. Albert rather than work out a joint-servicing agreement for it.
That may be true, McGillis said, but the county is in a bit of a tenuous situation with St. Albert right now.
“You may become a victim of some tradeoffs,” he said.
The county is in a Catch-22 here, said its Mayor Don Rigney – the MDP has to follow the CRB’s growth plan (which flags this area for high residential growth), but the CRB, specifically St. Albert, won’t approve it if they do.
St. Albert has “more or less held a gun” to the county’s head, he joked, in making its support contingent on a future “boundary adjustment.”
McGillis asked Parker how close the county should come to St. Albert’s borders.
“If I were to interpret your remarks, no development of any kind close to your border would be acceptable,” he said.
He also said he was “confused” that St. Albert was talking about another annexation just six years after its last one. (The city also voted to pursue an annexation in 2012.) “I realize you have to aspirations to grow, but at whose expense?”
County council voted Tuesday to strike an administrative subcommittee with St. Albert to try and work out some of their differences – mirroring a move made by St. Albert earlier this month. Council also voted 4-3 to look into provincial grants to call in a mediator if necessary.
The public hearing resumes at the April 9 county council meeting.