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Concerns sounded over commercial land reduction

Proposed changes to Erin Ridge North area structure plan questioned by former councillor, former city manager

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Saturday, May 24, 2014 06:00 am

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A proposal to reduce commercial space in the Erin Ridge North area structure plan is being met with some concerns from a former city manager and a former councillor.

Both Bill Holtby, who was city manager before Patrick Draper, and former councillor Neil Korotash have written to council outlining their concerns with the request from Landrex to reduce 25 hectares of designated commercial land in phase two of Erin Ridge North to 11.4 hectares.

Council completed first reading of the bylaw that would allow that reduction, and changed the remainder to residential zoning, on April 28.

That, along with a raft of other amendments, was referred to the Capital Region Board before St. Albert’s city council proceeds with the rest of the readings required to pass the bylaw.

Korotash and Holtby both said they’ve received responses to their letters that indicate their input will be considered as a submission to the public hearing about the amendment.

Council had been told during the April 28 meeting a market survey done by the developer indicated there wasn’t a need for as much commercial land along the St. Albert Trail corridor.

“I believe the developer is correct for today but has not done projections for when the City expands to its current Boundaries or to the potential future boundaries of the City after the next annexation,” Holtby says in his letter, a copy of which was provided to the Gazette.

Korotash echoed Holtby’s concern.

“This is not a decision that should be made based on current market conditions,” he said. Korotash said he thinks the city should take a longer term look at the commercial requirements for the city at full build-out.

Korotash noted long-term projections that addressed issues of balance between residential and commercial development he saw during an annexation process while he was on council.

“I just think it’s a rush proposal here,” Korotash said, adding it “may be a knee-jerk reaction based on a quick market analysis is what it seems like to me.”

“I’m not a development expert but from my experience developers tend to make more money on residential,” Korotash said. “We’ve lost a lot of commercial land in St. Albert because of that.”

That loss was also a theme of Holtby’s letter, which gave a few examples for council to consider like the rezoning of Heritage Lakes to residential from light industrial, the north end of St. Albert Trail in Erin Ridge and Deer Ridge being zoned to residential and not commercial and the portion of Riel South that’s been zoned as residential.

Holtby praised councils throughout the years for not allowing Campbell South to be zoned to residential.

“I fully respect the developers need to ensure that the development that they plan needs to be financially viable within a reasonable period of time. At the same time Council needs to look at the long term interests of the community and balance that need with the short term interests of the developer,” Holtby wrote to council.

Korotash said he hopes council takes their time and asks the right question.

“We need a good balance of residential and non-residential tax assessment,” he said, noting the area in question is space he considers prime for commercial development, and once it’s zoned residential “you don’t get it back after.”


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