Strike two for Villeneuve ASP

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Second swing at regional plan dies on order paper

County council’s plan to add some 6,000 people to Villeneuve died a quiet death this week after the province declined to give them an extension on a proposed area structure plan.

The bylaws behind Sturgeon County’s proposed Villeneuve area structure plan expired last May 24 after the province’s transportation minister decided not to let the county extend their expiration date.

Under provincial law, bylaws expire if they do not pass third reading within two years of being tabled. May 24 was the deadline for the area structure plan to pass.

Sturgeon County has been working on an area structure plan for Villeneuve since 2009 that, if approved, would add up to 6,120 people to the region in about 60 years.

The county got 18 of 24 votes in favour of this plan at the Capital Region Board (CRB) last summer, which meant the board rejected it: under the board’s rules, motions only pass if a majority of members with a majority of the region’s population support them. This gives Edmonton an effective veto, and Edmonton and St. Albert voted against the plan.

County council moved last April 23 to ask the transportation minister to extend the expiry date for the bylaws. As of May 28, said Coun. Ken McGillis, council had yet to hear back from the province, meaning that the bylaws have expired.

McGillis said he was disappointed, and noted that this was the second time the county had tried and failed to create a plan for Villeneuve. “It’s my expectation that in the course of time the ASP will resurface with significant changes,” he said, but the county now has to start the whole planning process over again. “It’s back to square one.”

In response to a request from the county, St. Albert city council had tabled a report the previous week outlining their objections to the Villeneuve plan.

St. Albert’s concerns dealt with the plan’s proposed population growth, said Mayor Nolan Crouse, which the city felt could cause water shortages in St. Albert and Morinville. “We’re building a water system for our future. We’re not building it to pump (water) all the way to Villeneuve and a town of 6,500.”

These new residents would also need schools, rec-centres and overpasses, Crouse continued. “Where does that money come from?” he asked. “It comes from taxpayer dollars.” The plan’s population density also fell short of the CRB’s density targets.

Crouse also questioned the need to have this level of residential growth given plans to expand the Villeneuve Airport. “Why would you build a big town around a big airport?”

McGillis said he was disappointed that St. Albert rehashed its objections to the plan instead of providing specific suggestions as the county had asked. “Tell us what you think would be acceptable.” He also disputed the city’s concerns about the plan’s population growth, arguing that St. Albert’s growth over the next five years would have far more of an impact on water supplies than Villeneuve’s over the next 50.

Crouse said he wasn’t going to tell another municipality how to do land planning. “What we’ve done is say, ‘Here are our concerns.’” It was now up to the county to talk with communities such as Edmonton to address their concerns.

Planning was important, Crouse said, but this plan had too many people in it. “Do it, but don’t build a town that big.”

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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.