St. Albert city council is ready to take a serious look at boundary growth before continuing any further discussion about joint servicing with Sturgeon County.
At the Sept. 19 meeting, council unanimously approved Coun. Bob Russell’s motion to meet with administration to review growth prior to any further meetings with Sturgeon County.
Russell said discussions with the county about joint servicing and joint boundary growth are premature until St. Albert has a firm plan about growth – and such a plan has yet to be articulated.
“Several meetings have been held (with the county) but no decisions have been made with respect to boundary adjustment,” he said. “We had some nice meetings, but we really haven’t done much.”
Council chose to postpone a second motion, which would have council seek a meeting with the county to discuss “forming a partnership” to address future growth needs.
Russell cited what he described as critical issues, including growth in the Sturgeon River valley, along the proposed 127 Street corridor, and the areas on both sides of Highway 2 as far north as Highway 37.
“We don’t know much about what might take place,” he said.
The chief concern articulated repeatedly by Russell, along with councillors Sheena Hughes and Cam MacKay, is that moving forward on proposed joint-servicing efforts along the city/county border could stymie the city’s future growth efforts.
“We can’t afford to spend our money building infrastructure for another municipality to build right on our doorstep and compete with us,” Russell said.
The idea is that by having a private, in camera meeting before meetings of the Intermunicipal Affairs Committee (IAC), councillors can get on the same page and have all the information in front of them. Hughes said the first meeting is a good start, but she would like to see it become a regular practice.
“I think this is paramount. What I’d like to see is we have a meeting of this nature before every IAC meeting,” she said. “I just think we’re (currently) going into the meetings blind.”
Former mayor Richard Plain gave a five-minute presentation to council supporting Russell’s motion, giving three recommendations.
First, he recommended the city withhold support for the Capital Region Board’s proposed increased density targets until the city can determine what impact they will have on ratepayers.
Second, he suggested council should see a short- and long-term planning with respect to commercial and industrial growth to determine how city-serviced county development may compete with development with the city.
“We will literally provide the servicing and wherewithal for our competitors to compete with us,” he said. “If that’s the case, we really need to know why we’re doing that.”
Third, he recommended council approve a full update of the city’s Municipal Development Plan in the 2017 budget.
“All I can say is typically, I would look at what’s best for St. Albert,” Plain said. “What are the scenarios that would be best for St. Albert, clearly spelled out, and done in an open and transparent manner.”
The next joint meeting with county councillors is scheduled for Oct. 26. A date for city council’s in camera meeting beforehand has not yet been confirmed.