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Downtown design guidelines passed

Council votes in favour of recommended urban design for future developments

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jan 25, 2014 06:00 am

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Urban design guidelines are now in place for new developments in downtown St. Albert.

City council approved the proposed urban design guidelines for the downtown area on Monday night in a 5-2 vote. Couns. Cam MacKay and Sheena Hughes voted against the motion to approve the guidelines while the rest of council voted for them.

“I love the fact that we’re having some design standards for the downtown,” said Coun. Cathy Heron. She was concerned that they “just didn’t seem very St. Albert specific” and incorporating botanical arts or the city’s historical side.

“You could put these design standards into any city across North America,” Heron said.

Carol Bergum, director of planning and development for the city, said the guidelines reflect what’s in the downtown area redevelopment plan (DARP) and also try not to repeat what’s already laid out in other documents.

“As guidelines it provides those starting points for discussion with applications. They’re not so much specific regulations of this shall be and this shall not be,” Bergum said.

Coun. Gilles Prefontaine wanted to know if there were “any hot button items” to be aware of.

David Johnston of O2 Planning and Design, the firm that developed the guidelines, said the urban design details as drafted are fairly common to larger cities at this time.

Hughes worried that the details are too restricting while MacKay asked about previous buildings being grandfathered and what acceptable developments would be.

The guidelines include specialized details for high-rise buildings and parking.

The general guidelines for building and architectural design suggests items like avoiding blank or featureless facades and a suggested building height to road corridor ratio.

Land use and site development guidelines ask developers to look at site context, to complement the park system and the river and more.

Four distinct character areas, including the downtown area on the St. Albert Trail, the Perron area, the riverfront area and Millennium Heights are listed and described.

The guideline documentation notes these aren’t to be taken as a checklist that must include all suggested aspects for each project.

Mayor Nolan Crouse was worried about how these guidelines get embedded in policy. Bergum said it’s already embedded via other plans like DARP.


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