The Jensen Lakes area structure plan from Melcor got rave reviews from the majority of council on Tuesday night.
“This has been a very well thought out and well planned community,” said Coun. Sheena Hughes.
“To me, this here represents a pretty good representation of what makes our city great and still moving forward with new and innovative products,” said Coun. Wes Brodhead.
The new neighbourhood, located north of Villeneuve Road, to the north west of Walmart, would feature a mix of residential housing types and some commercial.
The area structure plan was before council for a public hearing on Tuesday night. Those who addressed council were in favour of the plan, though a resident suggested there needs to be a clarification for residents whether Villeneuve Road will remain open, as previously suggested.
“I strongly encourage you to look at the positive impact this kind of growth will have in attracting new retailers to our community,” said Dan Holman.
Holman noted some of the negative comments to the plan on social media, many of which centre on what Melcor calls a community lake but others call private.
“If we look for and focus on the negative, we’ll find it everywhere,” Holman said.
The “private lake” aspect of the plan, which would be paid for and maintained by a homeowners’ association, includes two beaches and some private walking paths to the lake, did raise several questions from council.
The lake, beaches and walking paths are not counted as part of the municipal reserve park space required as part of the city’s standards for area structure plans.
Coun. Tim Osborne said he had “some mixed feelings” about the area structure plan, with his concerns largely lying on the shores of the private lake.
“St. Albert does sometimes get slapped with that elitist label,” Osborne said.
However, he noted there’s no way the city would be building a similar amenity right now, and was pleased to hear suggestions from Melcor representatives that some events might open up the lake to the larger St. Albert community.
Osborne did find it strange that rather than protect the wetlands in the area, compensation funds are being provided to Ducks Unlimited for a larger wetland area elsewhere.
But Osborne, like his fellow councillors, liked features of the plan such as multi-family units and the roundabouts to be used for traffic calming.
Coun. Cathy Heron did a bit of word-smithing on the area structure plan, changing some passive words like “will likely require” and “could occur” or “should.” The changes require homeowners’ association membership in Jensen Lakes, consultations with the school boards to occur regarding the school site and to ensure noise attenuation measures are taken for some properties.
Her changes were passed unanimously by council.
As this was the first area structure plan most members of council have had to deal with, there were many questions from council, ranging from the homeowners association to queries about snow clearing around roundabouts.
In the end, first and second reading of both associated bylaws – the area structure plan and a land use bylaw amendment – were passed unanimously by council.
However, the mayor and Osborne declined to give unanimous consent to move to the third reading of the area structure plan bylaw, which meant the land use amendment couldn’t be passed on Tuesday either.
“What I do personally need is I need some time (to think) about exactly what we’ve decided upon,” said mayor Nolan Crouse. He said he’s not quite comfortable with some of the details but is “very comfortable with the big picture.”
Council did debate when the bylaws should come back for third reading, though Crouse’s initial suggestion of May 5 won out over April 28.
The mayor wanted to take the time “to do it right,” noting in the recent dust-up over the Erin Ridge school site, “people were pulling out the area structure plan from the ’80s and throwing it in our face.”
The delay in third reading means council could still make some changes to the plan.