Despite a developer's request for a one-week delay to go back to the drawing board and iron out some last-minute concerns, council has approved the city's first area structure plan (ASP) in the annexed lands.
Patrick Shaver, project manager of Landrex Developments, delivered unexpected news council Monday night when the Erin Ridge North public hearing resumed. After reviewing the updated plan, Shaver said Landrex still had concerns about a number of red flags, mostly on the subject of road classification and storm ponds.
Shaver requested a one-week delay so the issues could be sorted out with city administration before third reading, but council voted 4-3 to proceed regardless.
"Development will never happen unless we move forward. There are things that can be ironed out," said Coun. James Burrows. "What we have here is a high-level planning document for lands, for St. Albert tomorrow. That tomorrow will never come today if we don't move forward on this."
Coun. Gareth Jones agreed development needs to go forward, but thought Landrex should be given the opportunity to arrive on the same page as the city.
"I would like to see both the city and Landrex come together in a positive manner to make this work, so there's no more back and forth," said Jones. "This is too important for this city."
Storm water concerns
Shaver said some of the details did not align with Landrex's original proposal and some of the conditions, such as requiring Sturgeon County approval for a stormwater outfall, could have the potential to stall development.
Even though his request was ignored, Shaver said he's happy the plan has finally been approved after working on it in its present form for two-and-a-half years.
"Our preference would have been to work out some of these details prior to third reading, but we will continue working towards development for this year," said Shaver, who noted amendments can still be made to the ASP if Landrex can't get through the approval process with the current conditions.
"It's not that it was bad or wrong, it's just clarification for everyone's sake, including the [city]. We are optimistic we can develop as it is, but we do also know that there could be some hurdles in there we would have liked to have seen eliminated prior to moving forward. We hate to see this thing be delayed because an agreement [with the county] is not in place until some time mid-year."
The public hearing had been ongoing since October. During the last session in November, the only outstanding issue that remained was the partial closure of Coal Mine Road, which council voted to close in stages as other future roads in the area are constructed.
Shaver's request to further delay the ASP approval sent a wave of confusion among councillors, who were under the impression all outstanding matters had been resolved. After much debate, council agreed to close the public hearing and gave third reading.
The 129 hectares in the plan area, which up until a few years ago had been called Hunter Ridge, will accommodate around 3,000 residents. It includes predominately multi-family and low-density housing, commercial space along St. Albert Trail, churches and a proposed school.
A fiscal impact analysis of the ASP shows the city would receive $3.8 million in municipal property tax revenues, or $906,000 in net revenue after operating costs at full build out.
Municipal capital costs would be about $2.3 million, which would be spread out over a 10-year period.
During the last public hearing, council placed a priority on developing commercial and residential at the same time, given the lack of commercial remaining in the pre-annexation boundaries. The taxable assessment would be 80 per cent residential and 20 per cent commercial.
Shaver said so far there's been a commitment from residential homebuilders, but no commercial users have solidified.
Since there's a higher demand for residential, he cautioned council it could be at least two years before any commercial development is seen.
"We understand council's push for it and it is our intention to work towards it," said Shaver. "It certainly looks positive. With the infrastructure we have today, we will assure that portion of the ASP is allocated to commercial, so only so much residential will be developed prior to commercial coming online."
Previous versions of the ASP pre-date St. Albert's 2007 annexation of 1,336 hectares from Sturgeon County. The plan has been adjusted numerous times since then to accommodate city administration, public and council feedback.
Erin Ridge North is the first ASP to be brought before council since 2007.