With a future high school named as a priority, St. Albert city council has approved an area north of Villeneuve Road as a potential school site.
The area in question, the Badger Lands, is a little over 80 acres in size. Only a portion would be used for the site.
On Aug. 28, city councillors agreed to have staff work toward turning an “appropriately sized” section of that land into a school site large enough for a high school.
In a report to council, city staff said work on the Badger Lands area structure plan is slated to begin in 2019 and 2020. The report identified a school site as one example of a need the municipal reserve allocation could alleviate.
Coun. Tim Osborne expressed concern the timing was premature to allocate land, noting the city has not yet consulted with the school division.
However, Coun. Cam MacKay, who brought forward the motion, said the city is already aware there will either be a high school upgrade or a new high school coming to St. Albert in the near future, noting the land allocation would address the issue of where to put it.
“Whenever we meet with school boards, we have the same message conveyed to us: we don’t have enough school sites and the size of the school sites are a problem,” he said.
“Here, we do have a piece of land the city is in control of, and in a few years there will be servicing there.”
He added that by giving the school boards an adequate site, the boards may be more willing to give up part of their school site in the Oakmont neighbourhood, which he says the city has asked about in the past.
“They didn’t want (that site) at all, but they didn’t even want to give it up to us because they were concerned about there being no school sites available,” he said.
“If we had something like this on the table, it would be an opportunity to work with them.”
If that were to go favourably, he added, it opens up options for the city to place projects like a new library branch, which the city currently would need to purchase land for.
MacKay initially wanted an eight-acre plot designated as a school site. He explained he arrived at that figure due to the Municipal Government Act, which stipulates 10 per cent of a piece of land be allocated as reserve before the land undergoes development.
Mayor Nolan Crouse said by removing the eight-acre specification, the city opens up more options for the school boards.
That could include using part of the Badger Lands and part of the nearby Strata Lands for a school site, instead of having it all on the Badger Lands.
“I think tipping our hat toward needing a larger school site is appropriate,” he said.