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  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 09, 2014 06:00 am

UNSAFE – This pedestrian bridge in Sturgeon County is structurally unsound. The county will fence off access to the bridge until council can figure out what to do next.
UNSAFE – This pedestrian bridge in Sturgeon County is structurally unsound. The county will fence off access to the bridge until council can figure out what to do next.
STURGEON COUNTY/Supplied photo

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Bridge spared … for now

Sturgeon County council has decided to hold off on demolishing a bridge near Gibbons until it can get a better grip on how to pay for its demolition.

Council voted unanimously this week to fence off both ends of the Casa Vista pedestrian bridge east of Gibbons at a cost of about $13,000. It also moved unanimously to have administration work with the Athabasca Landing Trail committee and Casa Vista residents to find a permanent solution for the bridge.

The bridge in question spans the Sturgeon River to connect the Casa Vista subdivision to an open field, which may eventually become a neighbourhood. The bridge is on the verge of collapse so the county has closed it as unsafe, but residents are still using it.

A survey of area residents found that 72 per cent (33 respondents) wanted the bridge replaced, but that just 41 per cent were willing to help pay for the replacement, community services manager Terry Cashin said. About eight out of 10 respondents did not want the bridge removed.

Cashin requested $108,000 to remove the bridge this year plus $10,000 to consult with local residents about what sorts of amenities they want to replace it.

Removing and replacing the bridge would cost about $440,000, while fixing it would cost about $410,000. Fencing the bridge off would reduce the safety risk, but not remove the need to remove the bridge eventually.

Coun. Patrick Tighe said talks with the Athabasca Landing Trail Committee suggest that Redwater replaced a longer pedestrian bridge a few years ago for just $310,000.

“These costs are just so out of line,” he said.

And the ownership of the bridge is also in question, added Coun. Ferd Caron.

“I’m kind of in limbo of supporting something we really have no ownership of at a horrendous cost.”

Coun. Karen Shaw moved to fence off the bridge until the county could come up with a more permanent solution.

“We’re not sure that this is getting the best bang for our buck right now,” she said.

More development rules ahead?

A long-stalled subdivision near Gibbons has hit another bump in the road now that council wants more proof that the development still makes financial sense.

Council voted 4-1 in favour of second reading for a bylaw to rezone about 176 hectares of land south of Casa Vista and east of Gibbons to county residential estate from agriculture. Coun. Susan Evans was opposed and Coun. Jerry Kaup abstained (he was not at the public hearing for this law, so he could not vote on it).

Council also voted 5-1 to hold off on third reading until developer Inca Ventures could provide a study showing that its project is still financially viable and sustainable. Tighe was the lone dissenter in the vote.

The project, known as Riverside Springs, was first approved by the county at the municipal development plan stage in 2010 but has been on hold ever since for financial reasons.

County staff reported that this development could eventually house 1,000 people, requiring major upgrades to roads and water systems.

We’re going to be creating a community the size of Cardiff here, Evans said. She moved to have the developer put forth a viability study so council could see how this project would affect county resources.

Shaw objected, and said it was “brutally wrong” to change the rules of the game at this point.

“We (got) this one through the (Capital Region Board). Why would we suddenly say now, ‘No, it’s not good for us?’”

This developer has followed all the rules and invested a lot of money, Tighe said.

“I kind of get the aura here that we don’t want any more development in the county.”

Mayor Tom Flynn said a lot has changed since this project got approved at the area structure plan stage in 2010, including the delay of a neighbouring subdivision that was supposed to share in the cost of the region’s upgrades.

If this project fails, the county will still be on the hook for the region’s road and utility upgrades, he continued.

“We can get ourselves in a big financial corner if we’re not cautious.”

Council later supported a motion from Shaw to look into having all developers perform such viability reports.

“We’re asking this one (to do it), we gotta ask them all,” she said.


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