Avenir still struggling with red tape
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 25, 2013 06:00 am
Red tape continues to be in the way of St. Albert's high-tech Avenir development moving forward, said its project director.
David Bromley spoke before St. Albert city council on Monday evening, asking council and administration to move ahead on the company’s area structure plan while waiting for its updated fiscal impact study.
But administration told council that Avenir hasn’t provided all the information required to approve the project, including changes to its proposed lot sizes and street width.
“Typically the market demands the product and the product ends up giving the fiscal benefit,” said Bromley. “So when you look at doing the fiscal benefit first without knowing what the market and the product is, it’s not the right direction.”
Avenir, located in the city’s northwest, is pitched as a blend of residential, commercial and industrial development. The concept is to incorporate cutting-edge data technology to make the area suitable for companies and individuals in the technology businesses, particularly those serving the oilsands.
City bylaw requires that new developments have a mix of housing types.
But Bromley said Avenir has always proposed to focus on smaller homes with its project. The company expected the city would change its land use bylaw according to market demands but the city did not make that move, he said.
He added that Avenir tried to partner up with other developers but many refuse to work in a community that does not allow for small lots. He later told the Gazette that people want to own their property but cannot afford the large houses. They prefer living in detached houses, duplexes or townhouses, he said.
“That’s what we want to put into Avenir and the difficulty that we have right now is that the land use bylaw doesn’t let us do that,” he said.
Carol Bergum, St. Albert’s director of planning and development, told the Gazette that the city has always made it clear to Avenir that the developer is required to provide a mix of housing lots based on the current land use bylaw.
That bylaw provides the community with a diversity of housing types and gives the developer more flexibility in choosing where and when to install smaller and larger lot sizes, she said. Unless council changes the bylaw, Avenir will have to follow it, she said.
“In other communities they have a large lot land use district and a small lot land use district and if you want to make any changes you have to go through a redistricting,” she said. “(Our bylaw) actually gives developers a bit more flexibility.”
Bergum further told city councillors that they could not legally approve or move ahead on Avenir’s fiscal impact study as long as it does not match its development plan.
The city recently updated the servicing capacity of new lands, which affected outstanding fiscal impact studies and may have required some of them to be redone. But in a previous interview, Bergum said that Avenir was required to submit a new study anyway.
Following a lively debate on the subject, Mayor Nolan Crouse asked Bromley and administration to get together and work on finding a solution.
Bromley later said that Avenir is prepared to start working on its project by 2014, pending the approval of its area structure plan. He added that Avenir will not give up on the project, saying the firm will either wait for the city to change the bylaws or “deal with what they got.”