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County inks agreement with St. Albert

Memorandum of understanding outlines greater co-operation

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014 06:00 am

ZONES – Shaded areas above are primary growth areas in Sturgeon County’s MDP. If the MDP is approved, the county and St. Albert will work towards a decades-long growth plan that could eventually see St. Albert annex the areas.
ZONES – Shaded areas above are primary growth areas in Sturgeon County’s MDP. If the MDP is approved, the county and St. Albert will work towards a decades-long growth plan that could eventually see St. Albert annex the areas.

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County council signed off on a symbolic deal with St. Albert this week about how to manage its borderlands with the city – a deal that could eventually see those lands become part of St. Albert.

County council voted 5-0 in favour of its memorandum of understanding with St. Albert Tuesday. Couns. Patrick Tighe and Wayne Bokenfohr were absent.

In the works since December, the memo – which has yet to be approved by St. Albert – is a non-binding agreement meant to govern how the city and the county develop the lands immediately north and west of St. Albert.

Those lands are a part of Neighbourhood G under the county’s proposed municipal development plan (MDP), and have been designated as a priority growth area (PGA) by the Capital Region Board.

Sturgeon County and St. Albert haven’t always worked well together in this region, county Mayor Tom Flynn said in council.

“We are spending a lot more time trying to develop those relations.”

Rules of engagement

The agreement sets out 10 principles for how the city and the county are to manage their border regions.

Both governments are to work together in a manner that respects the rights of residents in this region, for example, and to commit to making it a vibrant sub-region based on the principles of the Capital Region Board’s growth plan.

The agreement commits the two governments to work together on planning this region through bylaws and the Intermunicipal Affairs Committee. They are to co-operate on joint studies about infrastructure and boundaries, seek joint grants, and pursue potential highway commercial and industrial initiatives.

Three principles directly address concerns raised by St. Albert about the county’s MDP, which (in earlier drafts) proposed considerable residential development in this zone.

“Sturgeon County is not interested in developing high density residential urban built form in the PGA,” the memo reads. The county “will not approve multi-lot residential developments within the PGA area without the support of the City of St. Albert,” and “St. Albert is in the best position to plan and service an urban built form as a natural extension of the City into the PGA.”

Flynn confirmed that this meant the county should eventually hand the lands in the PGA region over to St. Albert.

“At some point, I’m sure it’ll become part of the City of St. Albert, yes.”

The CRB has put the county in a funny position, Flynn said. This region has been zoned as a PGA, which calls for urban-type development, but the county doesn’t do that kind of development.

While county council has previously griped about St. Albert treating the county as a land bank for future expansion, the CRB has decided this region should become part of a city by zoning it as a PGA, Flynn said. That means the city and the county have to start working on that transition today.

“We have to sort out where does it get its servicing from, what’s the overall plan, how does it connect to roads,” Flynn said.

“If we work together, we can understand it better.”

St. Albert council was pleased that the county had moved the memo forward and would consider signing it this March, said city mayor Nolan Crouse.

“The key thing in the MOU is that they’re willing to discuss a boundary change,” Crouse said. This border region was meant to become more urban, so it made sense for St. Albert to be the one to develop it.

“It opens the door to that conversation.”

Flynn said this agreement should eventually become a binding, statutory deal to ensure future councils stick with it.

This could mean a return of the Intermunicipal Development Plan, which the county repealed in 2010), Flynn said. “I don’t know what tool we’ll use to do that (binding deal). It could be an IDP.”

The agreement now goes to St. Albert council for consideration. The text can be found in the minutes of the Feb. 10 county council meeting.


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