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Candidate Q&A: Development in St. Albert

Candidates running for mayor and council this upcoming Oct. 18 share their vision for development in St. Albert.

Send us your election questions
The Gazette has reached out to all St. Albert candidates with a list of 12 questions, and the answers will run in The Gazette each week as the Oct. 18 election approaches. Question topics touch on taxation, climate, development, funding shortfalls, business, traffic, transparency, reconciliation, the city’s Badger Lands solar-farm project, and more. Now we want to hear from you. What questions are at the top of your mind going into St. Albert’s municipal election? Email us the questions you'd like candidates to answer: [email protected]

St. Albert is expanding north and west, and a high-level planning document passed by the recent council will see future growth prioritized in these areas.

The Municipal Development Plan (MDP), called "Flourish," is designed to guide development in St. Albert over the next 25 years, and endeavours to increase St. Albert’s population from 65,000 to 100,000 people.

As the city grows, some recently approved developments have been contentious, such as the Riverbank Landing in Oakmont. The Gazette asked all candidates for the upcoming Oct. 18 municipal election how they plan to steer development in St. Albert. 

Mayoral candidates had 120 words to answer the question: 

Cathy Heron: For non-residential development: under my watch we have dramatically reduced business permit approval times, kept business property taxes down, and developed infrastructure that encourages business growth. As a matter of fact, the province has recognized how far ahead we are with red-tape reduction. A key priority next will be servicing the Lakeview Business District, and we've attracted the single largest corporate taxpayer in St. Albert's history: ULine. That's just the beginning, there's more coming! For residential development, I hope to see more complete communities built. This means there is a mix of housing and local commercial. Residents want to be more active and walk or bike to a local store or coffee shop. 

David Letourneau: Current land-use policies, bylaws, and development costs are inhibiting businesses from considering St. Albert as an option. St. Albert’s healthy land position, over 25 years of supply, and infrastructure is in place to compete for investment in the Edmonton region. Reducing development costs and reflecting market conditions in our land uses will enable St. Albert to become a competitive place to do business, helping bolster the city’s revenue. As the city continues to age, ensuring there is a variety of affordable and accessible housing for our seniors as well as other underserved demographics is a top priority. Keeping a balance of residential growth and responsible business development while focusing on environmental stewardship is key for the sustainability of our city.

Angela Wood: Infill in St. Albert must respect the characteristics of the existing neighbourhood. New developments must find a balance between the requirements of the regional board and the need to keep the welcoming feel of our community. Current residents must have a respected voice next to the developers to ensure a balanced discussion and management of expectations. There needs to be an understanding and responsibility placed on developers which help to maintain the unique characteristics of our neighbourhoods that give St. Albert its small-town charm. 

Bob Russell: We need a long-term development plan that will provide affordable housing for starter homes for young people rather than leaving development entirely in the hands of developers. I will move to re-instate the municipal planning commission, whose goals will be set by council, and that these goals include affordable housing.

Council candidates had 80 words to answer the question:

Sandy Clark: I would support innovative and forward-thinking development based on the provisions and guidance of the new MDP — Flourish — but I would seek to ensure that development aligns with any current developmental policies in place. Residents and businesses deserve to have the ability to rely upon consistent, responsible, and reasonable decision-making when it comes to existing zoning and future development. Any deviation from current residential area structure plans or residential land-use bylaws must come with community support. 

Ross Guffei: As an award-winning urban designer, I intend to ensure that St. Albert moves into the future by preserving and enhancing those characteristics that have made St. Albert one of the best cities to live in. Higher-density developments should only be allowed in areas that minimize their impact on existing built-up neighbourhoods. I will encourage new commercial and industrial developments to diversify the tax base and reduce the burden on the residential base.

Mike Ferguson: I am against the proposed Riverbank Landing.

Gilbert Cantin: I think we have a great city, and I would hate to see my kids moving away because of high taxes. Every great city is growing, but infrastructures has to follow so we are not playing catch-up like we are doing with Ray Gibbon Drive when the north of the city is already developed. St. Albert Trail got overcrowded.

Isadore Stoyko: We are a city with a residential and light commercial tax base. Keep building on that premise, as we are never going to be able to have a heavy industrial corner as the citizens will never agree to something like a refinery. 

Joseph Trapani: We need to reach out to local businesses to encourage the revitalization of St. Albert’s beautiful downtown. The businesses there are diverse and agreeing on a theme to revitalize the area would benefit not only the businesses, but also the residents and visitors to our city. This has been done in several other communities and has been successful. We have a number of local architects who have businesses in St. Albert that could be consulted, keeping our local economy growing.

Wes Brodhead: St. Albert development is set for success by the annexation of land from Sturgeon County. Historically, growth has been constrained through the lack of available land. With available land, light industrial development is encouraged by servicing the Lakeview Business Park while residential growth is encouraged by servicing the Range Road 260 lands. Innovative housing like back-to-front duplexes, zero-lot-line homes, lane product fee-simple row housing, will encourage young families and seniors seeking to downsize to remain in St. Albert. 

Wally Popik: The concerns surrounding present businesses and residents need to have a higher degree of involvement prior to going forward with proposals other than rushing them through at the eleventh hour. We need a cradle-to-grave approach other than a cradle-to-in-use approach, which seems to be the outcome with past projects.

Natalie Joly: My development priorities are to create vibrant, safe, and walkable communities where diverse residents can thrive. We must prioritize the protection of our natural assets and development that provides housing options for diverse needs. We must plan with long-term sustainability in mind. Development also requires collaborative efforts between residents, business owners, developers, and municipal planners, and must respect our statutory responsibilities relating to the regional growth plan and our Municipal Development Plan. Vibrant, sustainable development is a collaborative effort.

Jennifer Cote: We need to sit down and develop a strong vision for our community. I’m not sure the work done in 2013 and 2014 to develop a community vision is relevant anymore. With population forecasted to increase to 100,000 in coming years, it is time to re-evaluate. What do residents want/expect as far as services and amenities? My plan is to engage the community for these answers. From those conversations will come a clear mandate as to where development efforts should be focused. 

Mike Killick: This is a complex, critical area of focus. I will work on several aspects; development plans for the land we have just annexed; co-ordinate planning with our neighbouring municipalities; work within the city’s planning document, Flourish; be very sensitive to existing residents’ concerns to infill developments and rezoning; pursue higher-density solutions and affordable housing options and aggressively pursue attraction of new businesses. There may be a need to form a municipal planning commission to help advise council. 

Shelley Biermanski: I support implementation of a municipal development board which has previously had great success. St. Albert should remain a beautiful green city and the wrong development can bring unintended problems. Development needs to be fitting or enhancing to the local landscape. I believe local citizens have a vision of things they are wanting kept the same in the city and positive change choices as well.

Ken MacKay: The approval of the new Municipal Development Plan, Flourish, and the recent annexation with Sturgeon County during this last term will allow us to proactively plan for future population and employment growth. My priority will be on preserving our natural areas, trees, parks, the Red Willow Trail system, and our river, for residents to enjoy today and into the future.

Louis Sobolewski: I would encourage orderly and sustainable development through having engaging discussions with our residents about their needs and gaining insight into their vision for the future of St. Albert. Then afterwards, we would look at reducing red tape so that developers would be eager to invest in that vision of our city. By doing this, St. Albert would gain a reputation for being open to development and new investment opportunities.

Kevan Jess: Encourage location and expansion in St. Albert leveraging skill sets and capabilities. Competitive environment may require tax incentives and creation of favourable land lease and acquisition possibilities. Co-ordination with the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board has advantages, but the bottom line is it must provide the city with a viable business option. The 6.47-per-cent non-residential mill rate increase in 2021 is not business friendly. Expand our Smart City focus to buildings and business infrastructure. Higher-speed infrastructure could be an opportunity to increase high tech.

Donna Kawahara: I believe that companies and developers are attracted to cities that make doing business easy and have a stable political environment. We have had a lot of development recently which is a good sign of the positive growth St. Albert needs. The Chamber of Commerce will continue to be a key resource to ensure that red tape doesn't get out of hand. Fostering positive relationships with companies and developers will be beneficial for the future of St. Albert.

Sheena Hughes: Development, whether in-fill or new development, must respect existing neighbourhoods and keep up with the characteristics that define St. Albert. We are not Edmonton, and we need to keep our distinct feel that separates us from Edmonton as we face ongoing pressures from regional boards to densify the city beyond market demand. 

Shawn LeMay: A lot of good things have already been done, but we need to do much more to attract business and destination dollars to St. Albert with a renewed focus on our downtown core. I want to explore some best practices that I bring to the table from having lived in 13 cities across Canada and having worked collaboratively with a number of levels of government, as well as other sectors, such as business. 

Leonard Wilkins: Keep a setback of at least one city block from the Sturgeon River as a nature and park reserve for wildlife and recreation. Reserve the Badger Lands north of Villeneuve Road for one of two purposes: a) A future (let’s say after our population reaches 100,000 residents) multi-purpose recreational centre (to be funded heavily with private funds), or b.) future industrial land (which would broaden our tax base and bring jobs to St. Albert).

Rachel Jones: I love the buzz words "sustainable development" because it suits this question. St. Albertans value our land, trees, and small-city feel, but many of us also enjoy the benefits development brings. Developing commercially and residentially adds to our diversity of services, provides more choice for residents and visitors, creates job opportunities, and increases revenues back to the city. I would ask for plenty of feedback from fellow residents while also being an enthusiastic ambassador for smart development. 

Rachel Narvey

About the Author: Rachel Narvey

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