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Morinville rejigs downtown plan

Roundabouts could go, pending talks with province
1809 MorinCoeur sup
CHANGE OF HEART — Morinville town council approved a plan last week to make its Coeur de Morinville area structure plan more supportive of business. The plan proposes to seek changes to the related Hwy. 642 functional planning study to replace its many roundabouts with conventional intersections.

Morinville council has moved to revamp its downtown plan to make it better for business – and might drop the plan’s seven roundabouts in the process.

Town council approved the commercial area implementation plan for the Coeur de Morinville's area structure plan on Sept. 10.

Approved in 2013, the Coeur de Morinville plan set out how Morinville’s downtown region was to develop over 22 years. It’s closely related to the Hwy. 642 functional planning study (approved that same year), which proposed to eventually build seven roundabouts along the town’s main east-west street to manage future traffic.

Problems of the Coeur

Council called for an implementation plan for the Coeur earlier this year, saying little of it had actually been carried out since 2013 and some companies were concerned it could interfere with business.

The Coeur calls for new downtown developments to have parking out back instead of out front, for example, Morinville & District Chamber of Commerce chair Shaun Thompson said in an interview. That means customers would often have to walk around the block to get into a store, which could deter business during bad weather or winter.

The plan also required new downtown buildings to be at least two stories tall, he continued. That’s expensive, and many business owners didn’t want to have to rent out their second floor to someone else. The roundabouts, meanwhile, would cut off some business-owners from Hwy. 642 entirely and/or build over their properties.

The new implementation plan says the town would talk with Alberta Transportation about removing the proposed roundabouts from the Hwy. 642 functional plan.

That plan was a big win for the town as it allows businesses to build much closer to the highway than they could before, but it also has those roundabouts, Mayor Barry Turner said in an interview. Initial talks with Alberta Transportation suggest they might be willing to replace the roundabouts with signalized intersections without reopening the whole plan.

Turner said roundabouts and signals have their pros and cons, but signals seem to take up less land.

The implementation plan states the town will revise the minimum height and parking requirements in the Coeur and bring back potential changes for council approval.

The two-storey requirement was originally supposed to encourage mixed-use development and bring more residents downtown, but business owners are saying that could be expensive, Turner said. The town could get the same look for downtown by using one-storey buildings with tall facades.

The implementation plan calls on the town to do more to support heritage buildings and to create architectural guidelines (perhaps backed by a review panel) for new development in the Coeur area in the next two years. Administration is also to invest in beautification efforts, do a parking survey and create a downtown wayfinding master plan in the next four years.

Thompson said this plan is a good start, but council still has a lot of decisions to make ahead of it when it comes to actually changing the Coeur.

“Now the ball is in their court.”

In council, Coun. Scott Richardson thanked previous councils for their work on the Coeur. That work was done with the best of intentions, but “Morinville’s a growing place and things change.

“This (plan) is going to align with our current vision of Morinville and hopefully stimulate some economic growth.”

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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