City to collaborate on downtown engineering standards
Amacon will help create new standards for St. Albert's downtown core
Saturday, Apr 26, 2014 06:00 am
City staff will be tapping a developer’s expertise when it comes to creating a set of new downtown engineering standards for St. Albert.
Coun. Cathy Heron put forward a motion on Tuesday night asking staff to work collaboratively with Amacon, the company behind the planned Grandin mall redevelopment.
“We have to remember that administration is not going to bring forward anything that they do not support and I trust that the recommendations will always be good for St. Albert,” Heron said, addressing some concerns about having a developer prepare the standards.
David Hales, general manager of planning and engineering, said it isn’t uncommon for municipalities to use developers for this role, “basically using them as a consultant.”
The staff backgrounder given to council noted that due to current workloads, “staff does not have the resources to spearhead the creation and implementation of new engineering standards tailored to the downtown area.”
Hales said as St. Albert becomes a larger city they need more city-like standards in a confined area like downtown.
“We’re talking about redevelopment of an area,” Hales said.
Hales and director of engineering Tracy Allen assured council that having Amacon do the heavy lifting on the development of the design standards would reverse no council decisions. Allen said they won’t bring recommendations based on what Amacon suggests if city staff don’t agree with them.
Heron said Amacon specializes in downtown-type developments.
“I’m wanting to work together with somebody who wants to do something, invest some money in St. Albert,” Heron said, adding she looks forward to seeing a collaborative result.
Coun. Gilles Prefontaine said what council has heard indicates, “we have a gap, a policy gap,” between the downtown core and the rest of the community.
Coun. Cam MacKay offered a friendly amendment suggesting the Urban Development Institute also be consulted on the standards if possible.
Coun. Sheena Hughes was not impressed with the idea of getting a developer with a large project planned in St. Albert to make changes to the city’s standards.
People don’t move to St. Albert for large downtown developments, she said.
“They move out here because they don’t want it to look like Edmonton,” she said. “We don’t have to put the fox in the hen house.”
She said other developers might ask for the same in future.
“They’re going to ask us if we can bend over for them as well,” Hughes said. She said she sees this as a conflict of interest.
MacKay said he was torn, but thinks there is an opportunity to evaluate the suggested engineering standards when they come to council.
He hoped that input from the Urban Design Institute’s broader experience would help come up with a framework that doesn’t just benefit one developer.
Council passed Heron’s motion in a 6-1 vote, with Hughes the lone opposing vote.
“It’s not about bending over to developers. It’s about being open to a new and large type of urban living. It is about the future residents of St. Albert and those future residents are my children. The youth are moving out of St. Albert to condos and townhouses in Edmonton all the time,” Heron said.