The way council is choosing to do land use planning in this city is clearly broken. The latest demonstration of that is the proposed Habitat for Humanity development on 70 Arlington Dr. no longer must be in a cul-de-sac formation.
Council slid this change in without informing anyone in the community of their plans to make massive modifications to the development requirements for 70 Arlington Dr. One word to describe this: Cowardly. Why remove those little words? Habitat is trying to stuff 34 units onto this property, too many for a cul-de-sac formation for this small piece of land.
In May, councillors were clear that they were willing to consider 28 units on the property and it should only be increased beyond 28 units if absolutely necessary to have the numbers work with a private developer. Instead of listening to council, Habitat decided to stuff an extra six units on the land, making a cul-de-sac impossible. Instead of reducing the development to 28 units or a number that would fit in a cul-de-sac, they asked council to roll over on its own motion, and remove that requirement.
Council, without directly hearing from Habitat, without informing the community, and without even officially receiving the site plan, willingly turned its back on the community and removed the cul-de-sac requirement. Through this action council has clearly informed St. Albert that Habitat is driving this bus. It does not matter what the developer’s demand, what the design looks like or how little regard is given to the surrounding neighbourhood, council is prepared to fold like a cheap suit.
In the roundtable discussions, the community asked that the new families be given enclosed yards, that a safe access from the street to the park is added, that the development conform to R2 density (duplexes), recognizing that these are the bylaws surrounding infill developments in established neighbourhoods. All reasonable requests, and all were ignored.
Only three items were honoured from the roundtable discussions: the units must have basements, already standard in any other townhome or duplex development in St. Albert, that it should be in a cul-de-sac formation and that buffer space around the complex be added to respect the shortened lots backing onto it. (This too is not met in the revised design).
Now that council removed the cul-de-sac from its motion, nothing from the public consultations will resonate in this development. Essentially the community was allowed to pretend that their voice mattered before they were dismissed and city council continued its agenda, right on pace. At least our city council has made it clear who is in control of this development. The current revised site plan does not meet most of the council’s other motions for this property. So, judging from council’s actions earlier this month, it looks like voters will in September be able to watch council fold on its own written standards, ignore the community, and approve unnecessary demands for the developer so that they can push a poor design forward on this property.
Sheena Hughes, St. Albert