The newest version of the Riverbank Landing proposal by Boudreau Communities Ltd. is once again stoking concerns within St. Albert, particularly for residents in the communities of Oakmont and Erin Ridge. The June 22, 2020, council decision to reject the initial proposal is now being challenged with submission of a revised version tentatively scheduled for a proposed public hearing May 18, 2021.
Yet many of the issues identified by responders to the initial proposal continue to exist in the newest version, i.e., excessive height and location of proposed buildings, added demand to strained traffic infrastructure on Bellerose Drive and Boudreau Road, loss of low-density residential development, intrusion on Red Willow Park, etc.
I am presuming, you, like me, do not enjoy revisiting decisions made, yet the newest version of Riverbank Landing is just that. The lands in question are currently zoned under St. Albert’s land use bylaw as direct control (DC). This is a unique zoning that puts the onus directly on Council “... to exercise particular control over the use and development of land or buildings within the area so designated.”(LUB 10.5 (2)).
After rendering its June 22 decision, council has subsequently failed to discharge its responsibility by remaining silent on what it considers to be an acceptable form of development. Council is failing to provide leadership by choosing cat and mouse elimination processes. Not only is this an expensive approach for a developer, but it also wears out the community. So by default this becomes a process of zoning by elimination and attrition. If one takes to heart Mayor Heron’s statements printed in the Feb. 3 St. Albert Gazette that “I do want to see some development on that piece of land and I want to see some intensification of density. But I don’t want to see the river walled off (from) the community – the river belongs to everyone in St. Albert, not just those who can afford a balcony overlooking the river.”, then council has a hand in setting out what is desired development and density.
The LUB states “council ... (a) shall determine the land uses that may be allowed in a DC district; and (b) may impose such standards and conditions it considers appropriate to regulate that use.” (LUB 10.5 (3)) This puts matters squarely on council to prescribe limits on such things as: building height, building type, location, setbacks, density, etc.
To that end, administration should be delivering an agenda report that sets out options for council to consider and use these as a basis of seeking feedback from residents and the developer through the public hearing process. I expect council to be fully knowledgeable of development and zoning processes. Likewise, I also expect councillors to fulfil their responsibility to listen to residents on the choices set out by administration in compliance with the municipal development plan and those of the developer.
Administration has an onerous duty to be a steward of the municipal development plan and to assist successive councils on its implementation. It is not sufficient for administration to merely report on the variances of the existing direct control zoning and that of the developer, or the magnitude of resident feedback. As these public hearing processes are set up, they should involve an engaged discussion of the options, their pros and cons, and the benefits to St Albert. The time is now for this council to set direction to administration to prepare for a more fulsome discussion of various options during a public hearing than just an examination of what is being put forward by Boudreau Communities Ltd.
Ken Crutchfield, St. Albert