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City holds off on smart growth

The future appears bleak for the city's hybrid smart growth plan, after council put the review on hold after industry and members of the public panned various aspects of the initiative.

The future appears bleak for the city's hybrid smart growth plan, after council put the review on hold after industry and members of the public panned various aspects of the initiative.

Council will consider several motions at the end of the month, including a proposal to delete all references to smart growth in the city's municipal development plan.

Representatives from the St. Albert economic development advisory committee (SAEDAC), environmental advisory committee (EAC), St. Albert Chamber of Commerce, Rampart Avenir and the Cassidy Group all said they had different problems with the plans for the northwest annexed lands. The opinions come after a public open house was held in March.

"What was not clear to us was the strategic argument about the hybrid smart growth plan," said SAEDAC member Anshuman Khare during a presentation. "Is there a market demand for the hybrid model? These are critical questions to ask going forward."

Carol Newton said the EAC applauded the majority of smart growth principles, which should help with sustainability in the city. However, the group objects to plans that call for a light industrial park next to Carrot Creek, arguing it would cause a significant problem for the Sturgeon River watershed.

Rampart Avenir spokesman David Bromley, whose company owns the land immediately east of Carrot Creek, said the light industrial plans go against Avenir's and partner Cassidy Group's plans for the land.

"Industrial companies don't buy land by an ecological development because it's a liability," Bromley said. "Placing industrial in that land will sterilize the land and instead of lowering taxes, will raise them."

Mayor Nolan Crouse questioned the need for a modified road alignment, saying that his research showed curvilinear patterns (like existing St. Albert roads) were created to foster a sense of community and allow residents to form closer bonds within their street.

"At the time those neighbourhoods were being developed, the car was coming into prominence. Also, it was cheaper for developers to build," said planning manager Carol Bergum. "The community aspect was part of the marketing to sell it."

Bergum added that curvilinear roads would not allow the city to the meet the density requirements from the Capital Region Board, which calls for 30 to 45 dwelling units per net hectare across the city.

Ditch smart growth

Councillors introduced eight different motions, with another four recommendations coming from administration.

Among the suggestions was Coun. Gareth Jones's idea to eliminate the term smart growth from the MDP, cease work on the essential elements hybrid smart growth plan and replace all references to smart growth with "St. Albert model for future growth."

"We're trying to apply a development plan which is made for infill and apply it to a greenfield [area]," said Jones in an interview. "The beauty and character of St. Albert will be lost."

Coun. James Burrows suggested using the current municipal planning standards to develop the lands, saying it would allow developers to move forward on construction.

"We run the risk of losing another construction season to this," he said later. "Let the development industry come forward with their plans under the CRB guidelines and see what happens."

Crouse asked administration to evaluate the different motions and recommendations and determine how they interrelate. Council will review that material, including a recommended voting order, at the end of the month.

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