At the beginning of 2020, city council knew there was work ahead to plan and accommodate for a growing population, says Coun. Wes Brodhead. In ways, COVID-19 didn't distract from that, but the pandemic did focus a need to consider and understand the impact to residents.
"What COVID did was, in amongst all of our visions and dreams for the future, we have to understand the impact on the community today and take that into account," Brodhead said. "Having said that, vigilance is always required going into 2021 with our eye on the prize, which is to be a financially viable community."
Council has been building on the foundation that was set by the approval of the Project 9 sanitary sewer project during the last council term, Brodhead said. While servicing lands to the west opened the city to investment and stimulus funds for shovel-ready projects, it also set the tone of the direction the city is heading.
"We want to keep this wonderful community in which to live, learn, work and play, but we need to make it accessible to a wider range of the population," he said. "To do that, we needed to do things like provide more affordable housing and need to make the land less expensive to develop."
Last year, the city saw major investments in the Anthony Henday Business Park. Recognizing the need to diversify St. Albert's housing market from single-family homes, council added laneway housing and zero lot lines into developer toolboxes to build out newer neighbourhoods. The completion of Ray Gibbon Drive will continue to open up areas where the city has room to grow, he said.
"It's only going to get better as we push Ray Gibbon Drive north because it'll really open up the lands to the west to all of the light industrial zone land and residential land in the Rohit area as well."
As for personal successes, Brodhead pointed to his work to establish a regional transit services commission (RTSC). Eight municipalities in the Edmonton region are moving forward to create a single, integrated regional transit commission, which is now awaiting approval from the provincial government. St. Albert was the first municipality to sign on, with Brodhead named chair of the RTSC board.
"The vision here is that public transit is larger than a 40-foot bus on a fixed route, fixed schedule. It incorporates all modes of transportation, and ensures a seamless ability to travel within the region," he said. "That's what I wanted to be realized."
As for difficult decisions in council chambers, Brodhead pointed to Boudreau Communities' Riverbank Landing development. Wrestling with the outpouring of opinions from the community and the need for future development was difficult, he said, but there's "going to have to be grace given on both sides to allow development to occur." After voting down the first application in June, council will debate the developer's second application this spring.
Efforts to get CN Rail trains to stop blowing their whistles throughout the municipality has taken longer than expected, Brodhead said. Just before Christmas, Brodhead said he spoke with city manager Kevin Scoble, who again sent off a letter to CN Rail.
CN Rail told the city the rail crossing on Meadowview Drive is a safety concern and could require a reconfiguration of the roadway before they could stop the whistles. But the city needs to hear more specific information as to what the concerns are with the particular crossing, he explained.
Finding and exploring ways to diversify the city's revenue streams will be an ongoing challenge for the city, he said. There's only so much a city can pull from its residents, and there needs to be a way to balance out the tax split, whether it's through a municipal utility corporation or exploring joint ventures with other municipalities, he said.
"That's the exciting part about going forward," he said. "There's a synergistic effect when we can all work together, and the product is greater than the sum of the parts."
When asked whether he was going to run for a fourth council term, Brodhead said he hasn't decided yet but is still considering it.
"The people of St. Albert deserve everybody's service. Whether I'll extend my service for another term or not will depend on whether they want me to serve and what the community tells me. Then we'll go from there."