St. Albert to double in size says regional board
CRB report predicts huge growth by 2044
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 14, 2013 06:00 am
St. Albert could almost double in size within the next 30 years, suggests a new report, and Nolan Crouse says that means another annexation from Sturgeon County in the near future.
The Capital Region Board (CRB) received its updated population and employment projections last Thursday.
The projections are important as they are used to evaluate development plans submitted to the board for approval. In the past, plans that proposed more growth than predicted by the projections (such as Morinville’s municipal development plan) had been flagged for rejection by board administrators, leading some leaders to say they were being used as caps on growth.
The old projections were done in 2009 in the middle of an economic slump, a report to the board said. Much of the capital region has bounced back since, resulting in a rosier forecast.
The report projects three possible futures for the region based on differing levels of economic growth. The “Low” case assumes just one phase of the North West upgrader is built. The “Base” case assumes all three phases, while “High” predicts that plus three more upgraders. Each forecasts job and population levels to 2044.
About a million more people move to the capital region by 2044 under the high scenario, the report found – a growth rate of about two per cent a year. Edmonton grows by about 68 per cent to 1.4 million (up from today’s 861,900), while Morinville almost doubles to 17,500 (up from today’s 9,200).
St. Albert is set to add about 27,300 residents to its borders in the low scenario, the report found – equivalent to a Leduc or Spruce Grove – and grow to 91,600. In the high case, it almost doubles to 120,000.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, said St. Albert mayor and CRB chair Nolan Crouse. “That’s how we’ve grown in the last 30 to 40 years.”
The city’s annexed lands will let St. Albert grow to about 115,000, he continued, so the city will likely have to do another annexation in 25 years. “Working together with Sturgeon County, that’s the only chance we’ll have.”
Beaumont has the most eye-popping numbers, as it almost quadruples in size to 58,200 by 2044 in the high scenario. Even in the low-growth case, it’s still projected to more than double in size.
Beaumont’s high growth was due to its location, said town mayor Camille Berube – it’s within 10 minutes of the Anthony Henday, Highway 2, the Nisku industrial park and the international airport.
Communities need to make substantial investments now to get ready for this future, Berube and Crouse agreed. Beaumont has built a new RCMP detachment, public works yard and aquatics centre, for example, and is working on a new school.
St. Albert needed to beef up its transit and regional LRT to avoid serious traffic jams on its roads to Edmonton, Crouse said. “You look at St. Albert Trail and Ray Gibbon Drive today, they’re under tremendous volume pressure already. You start adding another 10, 20, 30 thousand commuters, and I think they’re going to have a bit of pressure.”
The province does a great job of building roads, he continued, but falters when it comes to park-and-rides and LRT. “Transit is an area where the province has to step up.”
This growth shows why its essential for the capital region to work together, Crouse said. “What does it mean for economic development? What does it mean for road networks?” The region has much work to do on watershed planning, transit, density and other matters as well. Local governments need to have the political will to stay at the table and work through these issues, Crouse said. “You have an obligation to work through them one at a time.”
Redwater, Sturgeon County and Parkland County have all recently threatened to leave the CRB. The new projections are available at www.capitalregionboard.ab.ca