City councillors are hoping to reap tax revenue rewards by approving funding for an area structure plan for the Lakeview Business District.
Formerly known as the Employment Lands, the Lakeview Business District encompasses 250 hectares of unserviced land on the west side of the city.
Mayor Cathy Heron said the land would provide for approximately 13 years of nonresidential development. She added the area structure plan is an important step in the city’s aim for a tax assessment split of 20 per cent nonresidential and 80 per cent residential, often referred to as an 80-20 split.
“Taxes are an issue in St. Albert and if we’re serious about moving the needle away from homeowners, we need to get this online,” Heron said.
St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce board chair Brian Bachynski, who is also the publisher of the Gazette, said the city needs to grow its nonresidential tax base to meet new infrastructure and maintenance needs or risk imposing an “untenable” tax burden on residents.
“St. Albert has been plagued by the lack of shovel-ready land for some time. If we’re truly going to get to an 80-20 split, and beyond, between residential and nonresidential tax assessment, the Lakeview Business District needs to come online,” Bachynski said.
Estimates from the city put the cost of the area structure plan at $446,700. The city, which owns 69.2 hectares of land in the Lakeview Business District, would pay $125,100 while other landowners would cover the rest of the cost. City staff will negotiate a cost-sharing agreement as the first step of the plan.
The land could be marketable within five years.
Coun. Ray Watkins said the area structure plan is the first step toward getting the district serviced.
“It’s something we should get going on right away,” he said.
The area structure plan will be developed over three years. The costs approved by council will only cover the first year but will help the city obtain necessary technical reports for the area.
After those reports are completed, the area structure plan will require an additional $536,600. The total the city would pay over the three years is approximately $275,000.
Councillors voted unanimously to fund the plan but Coun. Sheena Hughes expressed concern about the cost of servicing the land once the area structure plan is complete.
Although a detailed estimate was not available, city manager Kevin Scoble said it was safe to say the cost for servicing would be more than $50 million.
“I don’t know where we’re going to find the money for all the front-ending, and how much the developer is going to pony up to make this happen,” Hughes said.
Planning for Badger Lands
Councillors also approved $200,300 for an area structure plan for Northridge 2, known as Badger Lands, which is approximately 80 acres of unserviced land north of Villeneuve Road.
The money represents just over half of what will be required, with an additional $186,140 needed in 2019.
Planning director Adryan Slaght said an area structure plan would let the city know what demand there is for those lands and what servicing levels might be required.
Servicing could take years and the city could bear the brunt of the costs.
Heron said she brought forward the motion to fund the plan in order to recognize that the city needs land for facilities in order to accommodate growth.
“I feel we can’t afford to wait. We can’t afford short-term thinking and we can’t afford to sit on this plan,” Heron said.
Hughes cast the lone vote against funding the Badger Lands area structure plan, questioning whether the plan needs to be done this year.