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Council aims to spur park in Kingswood

There's a park development showdown brewing in Kingswood. The St. Albert neighbourhood saw its first development start in 1986 but still has no park.

There's a park development showdown brewing in Kingswood.

The St. Albert neighbourhood saw its first development start in 1986 but still has no park. City council wants to prod the developer to build a park but, according to Mayor Nolan Crouse, the developer refuses to move forward without a guarantee that the neighbourhood's school site won't become a high school.

"The developer is not going to provide a park area and do anything unless we can guarantee no high school, which of course we can't do," Crouse told council Monday.

"He will let the land sit forever if the threat of a high school is there," he added.

While elementary schools are a selling feature for a neighbourhood, high schools are a detractor because they bring different student dynamics and traffic patterns, Crouse said of the developer's stance.

When reached by phone, a representative for Canterra Properties wouldn't confirm nor deny Crouse's description of the company's position.

There's one school site in central Kingswood. The local Protestant and francophone boards have indicated they may have interest in the site. In fact, the francophone district has repeatedly expressed interest in locating a high school in the neighbourhood. The district is currently operating a temporary high school in the basement of the old wing of Youville Home.

After getting an update from city administration on Monday, council voted to hold one last meeting with the developer to try and break the impasse.

Crouse last met with Canterra last year, and while the mayor agreed to pursue another meeting, he isn't hopeful that it will bring a resolution.

"I think we're at a stalemate, to be honest with you," Crouse said. "We have a developer who's not interested in developing the park … and neighbours who want some development. And the developer doesn't have any obligation to do anything."

Canterra Properties sales associate Ryan Brown would only say that the company would likely agree to a meeting.

"I suspect it would be a possibility," he said.

The situation illuminates a need for stricter controls around development in the city, Crouse said.

"What we need to do is have something in place where the developers have an obligation to develop a park system … while the development is going on and not after the fact," he said.

Land acquisition

Council also discussed the two ways by which the city could acquire the Kingswood parkland. One way would be to amend the area structure plan to prevent further development in Kingswood until the park is turned over to the city.

Coun. Cam MacKay wondered if this strategy could backfire by inadvertently stalling development in the area.

"We could just guarantee that we're at gridlock here for many years," he said.

The second way for the city to get the land is to expropriate it. But this would require that the city pay market value for the land and cover the landowner's legal fees, says a city backgrounder.

If the city did acquire the land, it would likely cost more than $1 million to develop the park site, council heard.

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