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Feedback open on Riverbank Landing proposal

Residents can weigh in on the second proposal until Feb. 2

A group of St. Albert residents argue new plans for Riverbank Landing are too similar to a proposal that got shot down last summer.

Developer Boudreau Communities resubmitted designs for a second application to the city in December, cutting building heights in half, reducing units from 466 to 360 and lowering the commercial footprint to five per cent of the site.

The developer needs council's go-ahead to change the site from low-density to mixed-use under the Oakmont area structure plan (ASP), and rezone the site to direct control mixed use (DCMU) under the land use bylaw. The tallest building, planned closest to the river, would be 50 metres high, twice the height of what's currently allowed. 

Since their first contentious proposal was voted down last June, Dave Haut, CEO and president of Boudreau, has said they have taken public feedback into account with these new designs. Virtual public hearings were held on Oct. 6 and Nov. 10. 

"We took another look at how to reduce the overall mass and introduce light, air and architectural movement," Haut previously told the Gazette.

St. Albertans can submit their comments on the proposal until Feb. 2. First reading will go to council on April 19, with a public hearing tentatively set for May 17. 

The Gazette spoke with several residents, both for and against, about the development.

Look familiar? 

Much of the original concerns are still there this second time around, said resident Sandy Clark.

After last summer's vote, a focus group was set up with residents and the developer with the hope they could work on finding some middle ground. Clark, who was part of the group, said talks quickly deteriorated.

"We brought forward several suggestions to them as far as options they could look at, which weren't single family homes," Clark said, mentioning duplexes, secondary suites or apartment buildings. "At every turn, the developer was determined he was building high-rises with way too much density."

Clark said the buildings may be shorter, but the overall density was only reduced by 20 per cent, making the buildings fatter and "walling off the river." Council has the responsibility to preserve the river valley for generations to come, she said, not put it at risk of becoming "a corridor of massive buildings."

Mike Killick said the group had asked the developer for an elevation model, but never received them. He added the group did not hear about a public meeting focused on traffic that Boudreau had previously committed to, either.

Traffic is a major issue for the group. The intersection is already over capacity, and Killick said it's difficult to understand how the developer could successfully mitigate additional traffic. 

"We just want to see some responsible development for that area," Killick said. "If you put the site diagram beside the original diagram from last year, they're almost identical. Not much has changed."

Doug Hartman said last summer, the group raised $2,900 for newspaper advertising, an animated video, Facebook ads and freedom of information requests to build a case against the proposal. The rest, which totalled $106, was donated to the local food bank, he said. 

The volunteer group of residents, with 90 households in their contact list, has now set up a GoFundMe page to fund another campaign. So far, they've raised $570 of their $3,000 goal.

Future of urban life 

Other residents were optimistic about Boudreau's plans for development. 

Dustin Bizon started a Facebook group of his own called 'The Positive Majority for Riverbank Landing," which now has 52 members. He said the proposal would bring St. Albert "into the 21st century." 

"As it sits, this site currently has no value to residents, or the city. Fifteen more expensive houses would offer no value to residents or the city ... the new proposal is really the only thing that make sense," Bizon wrote in an email to the Gazette.

"The city absolutely should not bend to the will of a very small number of people who just happen to be very loud when they make the same two or three arguments over and over. There is definite support for the project. We just don’t plan to sit on the sidewalk all day with picket signs."

Botanica resident Valerie Spink wrote a letter to city council in support of the development and shared it with the Gazette. The future of urban life is being looked at through the lens of "15-minute cities", she wrote, where residents can access their daily needs within walking distance. With this in mind, she said Boudreau's proposal is "the type of development St. Albert should consider."

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