No one in St. Albert 25 years ago thought the city would grow to Villeneuve Road, yet that’s exactly what’s happened. Now further growth requires further planning, which includes regional concepts such as transit.
That was the message heard by a group of approximately 35 people who turned out Thursday at the St. Albert Inn & Suites for the second of the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce’s Big Issue Roundtables. The event focused on two topics: development from the city’s perspective and regional transit.
Todd Wyman, the city’s growth initiative team director, presented on the development issue while Edmonton Coun. Don Iveson addressed regional transit.
At the heart of St. Albert’s development needs is an understanding between the city and industry and what each can provide, Wyman said. While no one ever thought St. Albert would reach Villeneuve Road, the city has to start looking even further beyond, specifically to Township Road 544.
“The lands between the future Ray Gibbon Drive and 544, that is what we will service,” Wyman said. “It’s likely we will annex that land” at some point.
But servicing the land is another issue. St. Albert is in the process of developing a new offsite levy bylaw to strike the right financial balance between the city and developers. Services up to Township Road 544 will be sized to the city’s density targets.
But how that servicing will happen and matters of density also need to be addressed. Wyman conceded that an overhaul of the city’s municipal development plan (MDP) is due.
“But it’s a big undertaking and the time might be coming to review it shortly,” he said.
The city also can’t play the role of developer. While cities like Edmonton might have the tax base to develop land and sell it, St. Albert can’t play at that level. That’s why offsite levies are important.
“We could be our own developer,” Wyman said. “There are different models out there but it’s not our model.”
When it comes to regional transportation, there are also different models available but it’s Edmonton’s goal to achieve borderless transportation, Iveson said.
“What we want to avoid is 10 transit systems operating in the future,” Iveson said. “We want to have seamless transferability where borders are incidental.”
Edmonton’s LRT will play a large part of that, Iveson said. While the city’s next priority is the southeast leg, it will complete work at NAIT, which will make extending the line to St. Albert’s southern border easier.
“Cross your fingers St. Albert is next after this,” Iveson said.
There are also several other factors at play. Many municipalities, including St. Albert, are hoping for a second round of GreenTRIP funding. The Capital Region Board’s (CRB) transit plan is also awaiting final provincial approval.
“Will the province take advice from this large beast they created?” Iveson said, referring to the CRB. “I think they will.”