The St. Albert Taxpayers’ Association wants the final say on a proposed downtown redevelopment plan to fall to St. Albert residents, not city council.
The group has started collecting signatures to put the issue of the downtown area revitalization plan (DARP) to a public vote during the Oct. 18 municipal election.
Association president Lynda Flannery said citizens should be better engaged with the decision.
“We don’t believe that the majority of people in St. Albert have participated in determining what their downtown is going to be, and we are not convinced that this is the best plan or what they would want.”
Putting a petition on the ballot will be a difficult challenge for the group. They will have to acquire signatures from 10 per cent of the city’s population, which would be roughly 6,000 people.
The proposed plebiscite question would read “Do you support the downtown area development plan as submitted on July 5, 2010?”
Flannery said her group is aware the petition will be a sizeable challenge, but they also hope council will put the issue to a public vote regardless of the number of signatures.
The plan calls for a denser, pedestrian-oriented downtown with more high-rise condo buildings and a host of new civic buildings situated downtown.
Ultimately, the plan aims to add 7,000 more people to the downtown with high-rise towers as high as 25 storeys.
Flannery said the city’s open houses, newspaper advertisements and other hearings don’t equal enough consultation for such a big change.
“That is pretty passive, and for a change of this nature I don’t think it is good enough.”
City council gave the plan first reading and is set to hold a public hearing on Aug. 16. Crouse wouldn’t comment on the taxpayer group’s objections to the plan, because he said he didn’t want to prejudge the public hearing.
He said he intends to keep working on the plan, however, unless a petition comes forward.
“We are elected to make decisions, we are elected to make decisions on big issues and on small issues,” he said. “If they get enough signatures to have a plebiscite and it meets the legislative requirements then we will follow the law, but in the meantime we are going to continue on with what we got in front of us.”