City gets first look at growth plan context statement

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Council got a first look on Monday at a document that will help align St. Albert’s local land-use growth plan with regional priorities.

City manager Kevin Scoble said the document is generally aligning the Municipal Development Plan (MDP) with the regional growth plan.

Coun. Sheena Hughes had concerns with the growth plan, asking how much say the City of St. Albert had in creating the context statement for the growth plan.

“Here is what the EMRB (Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board) wants us to do and thus we are writing a growth plan or writing an MDP to match what they have dictated to us to do,” Hughes said.

“The problem I had was we actually didn’t get to decide very much at all for ourselves because the EMRB basically told us everything that we were supposed to put in here,” Hughes added.

Scoble said while the EMRB has some guidelines, the city will be creating its own unique MDP.

“We are still permitted to have our unique MDP for our city. In fact, our MDP is probably going to be covering more broadly than what the minimum requirements are in the context statement. It’s a very different approach to doing an MDP this time,” Scoble said.

Hughes said the document was coming to council for approval but added “in many ways, how can you say no to this?”

Mayor Cathy Heron said all of the mayors in the region sit on the board, which is provincially legislated, and plan for regional growth.

“We all had input, we all approved it. This is just to make sure our MDPs are not grievously misaligned with the growth plan,” Heron said.

Coun. Ken MacKay said he could understand the concerns Hughes raised because the St. Albert MDP will eventually need to be brought back to the EMRB for approval.

“I can see some of the comments and some of the concerns in relation to the fact that even though we have some freedom to work within the guidelines, we still have to run it by another body to get approval,” MacKay said.

In the end all six councillors in attendance voted to approve the document, with Coun. Wes Brodhead absent to attend an out-of-town transit conference.

The document features six categories around which the city will build its growth plan: economic competitiveness and employment, natural living systems, communities and housing, integration of land use and infrastructure, transportation systems and agriculture.

The context statement will guide the MDP to “achieve compact growth that optimizes infrastructure investment” and includes density targets of 17.5 per cent for new communities within St. Albert. New greenfield developments will need to conform to the applicable minimum density targets set.

St. Albert council is currently rewriting the MDP and has to have it updated by October 2020 to satisfy a requirement from the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board’s new growth plan, which was approved in October 2017.

The MDP is the foundational planning document for the city and other documents – including area structure plans – are built off it.

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Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2016. She writes about municipal, provincial and federal politics; court and crime; general news and features.