County halts Cardiff development

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No new subdivisions without area structure plan, says council

County council hit the brakes on development around Cardiff this week by bringing in a moratorium on new subdivisions in the area — a move one developer says flies in the face of the county’s claims of being open for business.

About 18 county residents packed county council chambers Tuesday and saw councillors vote 4-3 in favour of a moratorium on new multi-lot residential subdivisions around Cardiff. That moratorium will remain in place until council creates an area structure plan for the region. Mayor Don Rigney and councillors Don McGeachy and David Kluthe opposed the motion.

Coun. Tom Flynn gave notice of the motion at a previous meeting. He had introduced it in response to concerns about development in Cardiff, which is expecting two subdivisions and a major interchange at Hwy. 2 and Cardiff Road in the near future.

The decision left Norman Suvan of Nor-Chris Holdings Inc. frustrated. Suvan has been working on the 190-lot Estates of Cardiff subdivision in the region for the last six years and this decision puts it on indefinite hold.

“Council has said they’re open for business,” he said to council, “and this flies in the face of it.”

Concerned residents

Susan Evans was all smiles after the motion passed. The long-time Cardiff resident had organized a campaign for a moratorium and presented council with a list of about 136 signatures in support of one.

Most Cardiff residents moved to the region because of its small size, Evans told council, and fear new developments will bring density and traffic. “The community doesn’t want density,” she said. “Low density would ensure the rural way of life.”

Residents were concerned about the traffic new homes and the proposed interchange on Cardiff Rd. would bring to the region. That interchange would involve paving more of Cardiff Rd. and raising its speed limit to 100 kilometres an hour from 80, Evans said — the limit drops to 50 within Cardiff.

“That road is going through the heart of Cardiff,” she said, and already has problems with speeding. These changes could draw more heavy trucks to a road frequented by pedestrians. “How are we going to ensure the safety of those residents?”

She said the county should address questions of enforcement and pedestrian overpasses before construction proceeds.

While some residents want Cardiff to stay “canola, canola, canola” forever, Evans said, most realize development is inevitable. “Let’s make sure we’re going to get it right.”

Suvan said his development would help the county upgrade the region’s pipes and water pumps while having “little to no impact” on the region’s traffic.

A moratorium would push his project back by at least a year, Suvan said.

“Six years have gone by and we’ve danced every step you’ve put in front of us,” he said. “What would you have us do to change your mind?”

He called on council to let his development go to first reading to pave the way for its construction.

“We need your support to proceed, not another delay.”

Questions need answering, says council

Suvan has done a good job on starting to respond to the needs of Cardiff residents, Flynn said, but there are still far too many unanswered questions.

“We have some responsibility to do some reasonable planning before we go forward with this.”

This new interchange was badly needed, Rigney said, as were upgrades to the region’s reservoir.

“We’re running on a tight budget,” he added, and area structure plans tend to be time-consuming and expensive.

Suvan’s development should go to a public hearing as planned, Rigney said, where residents could make their concerns heard. A moratorium would be an abrogation of this public process, and he could not support one.

Coun. Ken McGillis proposed tabling the issue until May 8, but was voted down 4-3.

Suvan said he would now work with council administration on an area structure plan.

Evans said she sympathized with Suvan, but noted that delays are part of the development business. “We’re not proposing decades. We’re proposing an area structure plan so that everybody’s on the same page.”

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.