Council has passed a motion to take steps towards protecting the river valley.
A motion, which was put forward by Coun. Sheena Hughes, will direct administration to research what other communities have in place to protect their river valley and bring the suggestions back to council.
“The reality is that one of the biggest draws that we have in St. Albert is our green space and our trees,” Hughes said. “Our natural areas are a huge jewel for our residents.”
The motion was put forward with no deadline for the research to be completed and Hughes said she is only expecting a page or two of notes. Once the research is complete administration will bring the recommendations back to council and they can decide if they should proceed with putting a bylaw in place.
Hughes said that the bylaw will also be important for developers who are interested in developing around the river valley so they know the rules and regulations before they start planning expensive projects.
The motion follows a council decision last December to reject a proposed controversial land swap in Braeside, which would have exchanged an area of 0.13 hectares of sloped forested land for the same size portion of a street-front area of Red Willow Park for a condo development. Although the land swap was rejected, the condo development did proceed.
“If we don’t have something that is clearly laid out to what the rules are this [land swap]will repeat itself again whether it’s this council or the next council. I would like to see something that is clear about the value we place on this,” Hughes said.
Currently the St. Albert river valley is managed through multiple policies, including the Environmental Master Plan, the natural area conservation and management plan, the urban forest management plan and multiple other Red Willow Park plans.
The motion passed with four in favour including Mayor Cathy Heron, and councillors Ken MacKay and Jacquie Hansen. The one dissenting voice was Coun. Natalie Joly, who said that while she supports protecting the river valley she felt the motion would double up on some of the work already being done by administration. Joly said that the river valley has already been identified as an important priority for council.
“I think we are going to have to have those discussions anyways as part of that big picture. My preference is not to double up on the work for administration. We are going to do this anyways because we are about to say this is one of our biggest priorities,” Joly said.
Hughes said that while council will soon be working on the Municipal Development Plan (MDP) it will not specifically lay out bylaws that protect the river valley.
Council is slated to start work on the MDP in 2019.
Coun. Wes Brodhead and Coun. Ray Watkins were absent from council on Monday and did not vote on the matter.