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EDITORIAL: Why the hurry?


It is laudable that city council is trying to bring services to the Rohit rec centre lands, west of Ray Gibbon Drive, which could spur the development of a business park, but what’s the hurry?

Coun. Ray Watkins raised doubts at Monday’s special council meeting about whether expediting plans to service the land is even possible. Accelerating the design of servicing and asking administration to explore any necessary borrowing bylaws, on or before April 6, is aggressive.

It is difficult to imagine that demand for developing the Lakeview Business District will materialize any time soon given the global economic chaos that envelops us.

Council may be trying to put St. Albert in the best position possible when the world recovers from the COVID-19 crisis, but there are many factors beyond the city’s control. Alberta, unfortunately, won’t be out of the woods when that happens as world oil prices continue to languish at lows that threaten even the big oilsands players. Suncor Energy is putting projects on hold and cutting its capital budget by 26 per cent. This announcement follows billions in spending reductions by other major oilsands companies, including Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Cenovus Energy and Husky Energy. Our city will not be immune to the economic fallout.

There are also factors within the city that need to be considered. Without Ray Gibbon Drive completely twinned, will there be a rush to develop the lands? The first stage of twinning Ray Gibbon Drive is from the southern city limit to just past LeClair Way. This is expected to be done by the end of 2020.

The next phase of Ray Gibbon construction takes the twinning to just north of McKenney Avenue. That isn’t projected to be done until the end of 2022.

The next phase, which finally would impact the Lakeview Business District, would go to just north of Giroux Road, and that won’t be completed until 2026.

Another complicating factor is there are still private land owners in the Lakeview Business District. Servicing the lands increases the property values, and the city may be looking at spending more money to acquire them.

It feels like St. Albert has waited since the beginning of time for the Lakeview Business District to come online. We’re one step closer, but many variables make that step seem like clearing the Grand Canyon.

Right now, it feels like it will take forever for the world to rid itself of the COVID-19 scourge. The world will survive this, but the economy is now going through a transformative phase as businesses grapple with fundamental shifts.

Decisions taken now by governments at all levels will have a marked impact on how the world moves past this crisis. It’s impossible for anyone to predict what the economy will look like a year from now, but government will have a role to play to help businesses get back on their feet, and they will have to prioritize spending.

However, the success of the Lakeview Business District doesn't rely solely on water and sewer servicing. There's transportation, land ownership and an economic environment that will have protracted consequences. There are a number of factors that still need to be addressed in order to bring Lakeview online.