St. Albert city council has voted against rezoning a residential site in Braeside to accommodate a health clinic after hearing concerns from neighbours that the clinic would bring too much traffic to the area.
The clinic — Revive Whole Body Health — is currently located at 15 Bellerose Dr. and operated by licensed chiropractor, acupuncturist, and massage therapist Dr. Bronwen Samuel. Samuel had applied for the new site in Braeside, a single-detached house at 38 Sturgeon Rd., to be rezoned from residential (R1) district to direct control.
During a council meeting Monday, Samuel described a desire to offer a “personalized” setting for her clinic’s patients.
"One of the primary reasons is to be more central in the community," Samuel said. "I've certainly learned a lot about people and their comfort levels over the years, but certainly COVID-19 has highlighted that even further in terms of choosing comfort."
The clinic would operate six days a week and receive between two and five clients at one time, Samuel said, with an average of three clients present at most times, and two to three staff working on site at one time. Parking on site would include two stalls in a garage, and five client stalls.
Kathleen Short, city development officer, said that outside the direct control zoning, a relatively small full-service commercial health clinic of 1,500 square feet would only require three stalls.
“The five in our estimation exceeds what would have been required for a full commercial application,” Short said.
Traffic, parking concerns
Three residents addressed council opposing the redistricting.
Shirley Deane, who said she is a direct neighbour to the property, told council she doesn’t want commercial business in her area.
“It was bad enough that condos were pushed at us, now we need a commercial business there?” Deane asked.
Deane said she felt the parking situation was being misrepresented, noting that city administration and Samuel had cited 15 additional parking stalls available directly across from the property.
“That parking lot is used a lot at times,” Deane said. “We don’t have any curb parking along the other side where there’s two condos … if we’re having guests over, that’s the only place they have to park.”
Deane also said in the wintertime the back alley is filled with snow, making parking even less accessible.
Similarly, neighbour Danielle Newsome said the alley is “not designed to safely handle two-way traffic coming in and going all day long.”
Brian Huber, another neighbour, described a high volume of foot traffic in the back alley in addition to cars going by, with children walking to school and residents walking their dogs.
“I hope both sides are getting an equal voice here and the decision is well thought through,” Huber said.
Council also received four letters from other members of the public expressing similar concerns, largely centering on the clinic’s potential to aggravate existing traffic along Sturgeon Road.
City supports change
St. Albert city administration supported the redistricting, and recommended council approve it.
Eric Schultz, a city planner, outlined how the change would support several principles and policies within the city’s Municipal Development Plan (MDP), including but not limited to a policy to encourage the growth and diversification of the local commercial economy, and support growth and change in established areas.
Samuel also brought two letters from neighbours in the area voicing their support for the clinic to council.
One of the letter writers, Vincent Shank, wrote that his mother lives in Braeside. Shank argued the clinic would make his mother's life “much more enjoyable” by providing nearby care, in addition to increasing walkability of the neighbourhood.
“I think this is an excellent opportunity to improve our neighbourhood,” Shank said in the letter.
Councillors oppose redistricting
Ultimately, councillors voted unanimously against redistricting the site.
Coun. Wes Brodhead expressed concerns about preserving single-family neighbourhoods.
“If anything in our community should be protected from these sorts of incursions by commercial operations, it should be our [residential] R1 districts,” Brodhead said.
In June 2021, council rezoned a residential site in Akinsdale to accommodate a midwife birthing centre. Brodhead said he is worried about council being too lax with approvals for commercial sites.
“The genie is out of the bottle,” Brodhead said. “Where do you draw the line?”
Coun. Sheena Hughes said she approved the Akinsdale development because of an outpouring of neighbourhood support, and low volume of patients using the clinic.
“The challenge we have is every time we’re doing one-offs, then you can start saying, ‘Well, why not me, why not everybody?’” Hughes said.
Coun. Mike Killick voiced concerns about making the change in advance of St. Albert’s upcoming infill strategy, which council funded for $208,000 during budget deliberations last fall. The strategy will set parameters for redevelopment in mature neighbourhoods.
Similarly, Coun. Natalie Joly said she appreciates that the principles within the city’s MDP support the redistricting, but would like to see the results of the infill strategy and a land use bylaw (LUB) update city administration is currently working on to help avoid one-offs.
“I do want to say to the proponent, I love your vision,” Joly said, adding she would like to see Samuels participate in engagement opportunities around the LUB and infill plan — called the mature neighbourhood revitalization strategy.
“I think perspectives like yours are really important as we go into the future and create those sustainable neighbourhoods,” Joly said.