St. Anne realignment goes ahead as planned
Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 06:00 am
The St. Anne Street realignment project will go ahead as planned.
On Monday, council heard arguments to halt construction of the roundabout portion of the project. That section of the roadway is meant to connect the downtown thoroughfare with St. Anne Promenade – the riverfront side street that is currently under construction behind the courthouse.
While Coun. Bob Russell originally lumped the relocation of the farmers’ market in with the motion, council voted to deal with each question separately.
Russell called into question the necessity of a roundabout stating that the “ill-conceived plan” was a “waste of money” and that it would impede traffic flow rather than improve it.
He argued that a simple T intersection with stop signs would suffice.
Chief community development officer Gilles Prefontaine told council that road signs are not ideal for intersections that do not form 90-degree angles, nor do they allow for good pedestrian movement, which is necessary given the number of apartment and condo-dwellers expected to reside there in the future, leaving a signalized intersection as the only other real option.
He also noted the cost difference between the two road designs was in the area of $100,000, making it costlier to issue a redesign of the project than to complete it with a roundabout.
The roundabout plan would also create two lots that could be sold for development purposes and be a source of revenue for the city. Prefontaine told council one developer has expressed verbal interest in those two parcels.
Councillors Sheena Hughes and Cam MacKay both questioned whether there was any real interest in those lots because the city has not received written expressions of interest.
Hughes also pointed to the recent engineering design that shows the roundabout cutting into the lots in question, stating that this reduces the salability and value of the lands.
“This road really is becoming the road to nowhere because there’s no plan for it,” said Hughes.
MacKay told administration they were planning too much when it comes to traffic projections. He questioned the old if-you-build-it-they-will-come adage, stating that developers should be on the hook for the costly infrastructure and not taxpayers, especially if there is no guarantee of future development.
Coun. Wes Brodhead expressed concern over “piecemealing” of the downtown revitalization plan.
He said council runs “the risk of losing the ambience of the entire plan when we begin tinkering with parts of it” and that by increasing access to this underutilized river-side area they have the opportunity to turn it into a “downtown gem.”
“There’s a reason it is there – it is an integral part of the DARP,” he said.
The motion was defeated in a 4:3 vote, with councillors Russell, MacKay and Hughes voting in favour of removing the roundabout.
Farmers’ market relocation shelved
Russell withdrew his motion to relocate the farmers’ market, which he qualified in a later interview as a “glorified flea market,” to the Millennium Park/St. Anne Promenade location after learning that negotiations with the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce concerning its proposed future location were underway. The chamber hopes to build new office space in the parking lot across from St. Albert Place.
The farmers’ market needs to be moved next year while roadwork is completed on St. Anne Street, as part of the second phase of the realignment project. A new contract also needs to be negotiated for 2017.
Russell told the Gazette on Tuesday that he would let the two parties sort it out.
“Now that it has been confirmed by the city manager (Patrick Draper) that discussions are in place about where to go with the farmers’ market next year, surely this is one area that will be considered,” he said.
Chamber president Barry Bailey told council on Monday the promenade area would only accommodate one-third of the market’s current capacity.
While a location has not been determined for next year, executive director and CEO Lynda Moffat said that the chamber might consider alternatives outside of downtown for this reason.
“Even though Coun. Russell made some derogatory remarks in his comments about the market, I believe that the people of St. Albert love the market and don’t want to see it cut back to less than what it is,” said Moffat, who was offended by the language used to describe the 30-plus-year-old institution that offers handcrafted, locally-sourced items in addition to fresh produce.
She added that it was too early to tell whether the market might return to its current location in 2017.
“Right now we’re going to make arrangements for next year and then we’re going to have a look at what the final downtown looks like in 2017, when everything’s done, and we’re going to see what happens,” Moffat said.