The first warehouses may soon go up in South Riel, now that city council approved plans for a new business park in the area.
The 52.3-hectare (129.2 acre) Anthony Henday Business Park will be located south of LeClair Way and east of Riel Drive.
The developer, GWL Realty Advisors, wants to build about 1.3 million square feet of light-industrial warehouses, and about 300,000 square feet of retail space.
The warehouses are expected to provide storage for retailers, as well as office and manufacturing space for smaller companies.
The retail space will serve the area, with stores such as Kal Tire, said Paul Derksen, development manager with GWL.
“We are not looking to have that super regional (shopping) centre here,” he said.
On Monday, city council voted on amendments to the area structure plan to reorient the commercial and the industrial parts of the site.
The commercial area will now be adjacent to LeClair Way, and be reduced to 12.72 hectares from 33.42 hectares.
In turn, GWL increased the industrial portion to 41.49 hectares from 23.56 hectares, and moved it to the south of the site, adjacent to the City of Edmonton boundary.
A stormwater management pond on the corner of Ray Gibbon Drive and LeClair Way was almost doubled in size to 6.24 hectares.
Administration said the changes create a better transition to two residential developments located north of the site.
Council also voted on changes to the land use bylaw, which changed the uses of the site to regional commercial and commercial and industrial services. In addition, administration created a set of design guidelines for the development.
These are intended to ensure that the business park will provide long-term benefits to businesses in South Riel, establish quality and consistency for buildings and landscaping designs, and ensure that all owners and tenants are held to the same standards.
Derksen said the developer is now preparing the site, and hopes to put up its first buildings next year. Full build-out is expected to take five to seven years.
He also stressed that GWL follows its own architectural guidelines to ensure the quality of the development is in line with others in the area, and the city’s directives.
“We do like the St. Albert brand,” he said.
Councillors had some questions about the development.
Mayor Nolan Crouse wondered if the development would include any trees. Administration later confirmed that any streets would have to follow the same standards for major collector roadways, so they will have trees.
Coun. Bob Russell wanted to know more about Project 9, which will create a new sewer line in the area.
Several developments in the western parts of the city, including GWL, hinge on the project going forward. Administration plans to present council with design and pricing options later this year.
Council will now also get a map of the project to better understand where the sewer line is expected to go.
Residents also addressed council, expressing apprehensions about developments in the area.
Lisa Etty said residents in the area wanted to make sure developments in the area fit in with the rest of St. Albert. She was mostly referring to a residential neighbourhood development north of the GWL site, though.
Coun. Sheena Hughes later said she understands the concerns but said council was only discussing the non-residential development during this meeting.
Another resident, Pat Collins, asked why money paid in remediation for wetlands destroyed by GWLs development goes to Ducks Unlimited.
“Is there any reason why that money could not be spent in St. Albert,” he said.
Administration later provided council with a letter from Ducks Unlimited that said the remediation money remains in the area.
Sarah Herring, a senior planner working for GWL, added the developer had also contacted BLESS, the Big Lake Environment Support Society, to ask if they could use the money.
But at this time, there are no regulations that allow money to be given to anyone else in Alberta, she said.
Council voted in favour of all the changes.
In closing, Coun. Cathy Heron said that developing non-residential land is financially beneficial to the city.
But she is concerned about traffic in the area, and said there should be more transportation impact assessments.
She also said council needs to have a conversation about Project 9.
“We will have to show some leadership in getting that project done,” she said.
Crouse argued in response that his voting on the development has nothing to do with Project 9 and he has no idea who is paying for it or how.
Heron agreed that the area structure plan can be approved without the servicing being in place.
She stressed, though, that Project 9 and the twinning of Ray Gibbon Drive to alleviate traffic in the area, are the “two biggest capital issues in front of us.”