City councillor and candidate for mayor Cam MacKay has come out against a proposed land swap in the Braeside neighbourhood.
At a campaign barbecue held over the weekend at the proposed site along Sturgeon Road, MacKay told the crowd that he does not support the potential land swap between the city and a private developer.
“It bothers me and it bothers people who live in St. Albert to think that it is even an option,” MacKay said.
Councillor Cathy Heron, who is also vying for the mayor’s seat, said that she hasn’t seen the proper reports on that space to make a final decision but both candidates agree that preserving the green space in St. Albert is one of the most important priorities for residents.
“It’s such a high priority for St. Albert residents to preserve that green space that it’s an unwritten rule that we don’t do it. The only reason the land swap would ever be achieved is if we were gaining something equal or better,” Heron said.
MacKay said that he wants to create a policy to discourage any large scale redevelopment of park spaces for private development.
Heron, who grew up in Braeside, said that for her to make a decision she would need to see an a financial impact analysis, an environmental impact assessment, the market value assessment of the two pieces of land and traffic impact assessment for the Sturgeon Road location.
MacKay, a Braeside resident, said that a big concern is that the trade is not of equal value and he would like to see an appraisal on all pieces of property that are being rezoned.
“When you look at that particular deal it’s kind of one-sided. The value of the property that is being swapped with the city is worth very little and the land that the city has is worth quite a bit,” MacKay said.
The plans propose rezoning the land located at 53, 55 and 57 Sturgeon Road, changing the designation from a low-density to medium-density residential area.
A private developer has planned to place an 80-unit apartment style complex in the location, including 118 parking stalls with 80 underground stalls and 38 above ground.
Along with the rezoning, the developers are proposing a land swap with the city. The developers have offered a sloped private portion of land that currently sits behind the homes along the Red Willow Trail in exchange for a street-front portion of Red Willow Park.
The land proposed in the exchange is .13 hectares or 1,300 square metres. The portion in Red Willow Park that would be made private includes part of the trail, which would be realigned at the developers’ expense
MacKay said that the issue of the land swap ties in with the debate of whether to reinstate the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC). He said that if the MPC had been in existence that he doesn’t think the issue of the land swap would have made it before council.
Heron disagrees, and said that the MPC would not likely be responsible for land swaps or rezoning.
MacKay said he would like to see the reinstatement of the MPC so there is another check and balance in the planning system and to provide the public a venue so they can have a say.
Heron said that she isn’t sure what adding an MPC in the process would solve, but if the consensus is that there should be more public input she would support creating a public body.
“An urban planning and design advisory committee would probably be a fantastic addition to the city in how we engage residents in the planning decisions,” Heron said.
The Braeside land swap issue will come to council in November after the October municipal election.