Municipal council decisions most visible to the citizens of a city are those that impact the growth of a community.
Issues of housing build forms, engineering standards, development densities, zoning decisions, land use planning, recreational amenities, infill guidelines, utility infrastructure, transportation corridors and other development plan elements all influence the look, feel and quality of life of a community.
St. Albert will continue to grow, given our advantageous location, first-class amenities and vibrant community. I believe that growth will benefit St. Albert, provided we employ a strategic mindset and manage development appropriately and in keeping with the values of our community.
Steady, manageable growth allows St. Albert to add needed infrastructure in a measured manner. At the same time, we will benefit from an increase in assessment, which will assist in deferring the impact of inflationary pressures on the cost of civic services.
Growth demands a response.
I believe St Albert is ready to engage in wise and prudent municipal planning, based on comprehensive forecasts and solid research. Decisions must be made to preserve St. Albert’s enviable status as the best place to live, now and for the future. When we fail to address our existing growth pressures, deferring critical decision to future councils, we neglect our duty as progressive leaders. We must recognize opportunities to strengthen St. Albert’s services and infrastructure. Together, we can design a strategic course to transition these opportunities from the planning stage to reality.
I believe the following issues are critical to the future growth of St. Albert:
Residential Housing Build Form:
The regional growth plan mandated by the Province of Alberta and developed by the Capital Region Board, will guide future growth within St. Albert. The plan requires the densification of residential development. The future density target of 40 du/nrh (dwelling units per net residential hectare) will require a departure from development reliance on single detached housing. Row housing, low-rise apartment and mid-rise apartment dwellings will be incorporated into future area structure plans.
I am convinced that we can introduce these build forms into our community and maintain St. Albert’s look and feel that we all value and appreciate. The advantage that accompanies these new build forms will benefit our community by increasing the number of quality affordable housing. With thoughtful and measured planning, St. Albert will be able to offer first time home buyers and seniors, who wish to downsize, the opportunity to stay within their community.
The upside of this new growth strategy is that 39% less land is required to meet development requirements. The implications are significant. Less utility infrastructure is needed to serve the same population. Civic services are provided more efficiently, transportation services – both roads and transit – are utilized more effectively, environmental emissions are reduced and valuable agricultural land is preserved.
Mixed Use Development:
“Mixed–use development is a type of urban development that blends residential, commercial, cultural, institutional, or industrial uses, where those functions are physically and functionally integrated, and that provides pedestrian connections.” – Definition
St. Albert is in the early stages of mixed use developments. This innovative style of urban growth has been tested and successfully introduced in many cities across Canada. The economic benefits of this build form are substantial. Studies indicate that there is a strong correlation between walkable communities, enhanced by mixed use developments, and their economic vitality. With the introduction of mixed used development, cities have experienced a resurgent interest in “downtown living” and the development of “town centres.” Mixed used build forms, if carefully planned, have the potential to inspire robust communities, stimulate private development, increase property values, heighten tourism activity, and generate an excellent business climate.
Mixed-use development is being introduced in the Perron District as well as Cape Developments which is adjacent to the Enjoy Centre and the Lutheran lands to be developed by Landrex. I encourage our community to embrace this style of development which will add the walkable village centre concept to our development portfolio. With creative design and planning we can respond to St. Albert’s higher density requirements while preserving our unique small-town feel.
Much has been said and written regarding the traffic congestion on St. Albert Trail and Ray Gibbon Drive. Clearly, without a strategic intervention in the road network serving St. Albert and communities to the north, congestion on the Trail and Ray Gibbon will increase.
From a logistical perspective, there are two options to ease traffic congestion on any roadway. The first possibility is to increase the capacity of the roadway. The alternative would be to reduce the traffic demand for the roadway.
The introduction of Intelligent Traffic management systems provides for the efficient movement of vehicles, which is a viable short-term solution to ease traffic congestion. Given St. Albert’s projected growth over the next decade, traffic demands will increase exponentially. St. Albert requires a long-term transportation alternative that will respond to the concerns of our community.
I believe that successful management of traffic along St. Albert Trail and Ray Gibbon Drive would involve completing the west regional bypass road and introduce, into the long-range traffic plan, the east bypass road, otherwise known as the future 127 street. These actions will increase road capacity and divert traffic volumes.
So how is this accomplished?
- Advocate with regional MLAs and other municipalities that Ray Gibbon Drive is not a St. Albert road but is, in fact, the first leg of the West Regional Bypass. Provincial politicians and bureaucrats need to understand that Ray Gibbon Dr must be designated as Highway 2 and constructed to 4 lane highway standard from Cardiff to the Anthony Henday Drive.
- Advocate with regional politicians to understand the vitality of their communities is linked to the development of Ray Gibbon Drive. Growth in communities to the north will be curtailed as all traffic to Edmonton must navigate the congestion of St. Albert Trail or the two-lane parking lot, otherwise known as Ray Gibbon Drive.
- Work with the Province to provide short-term traffic relief by twinning Ray Gibbon Drive from Leclair Way to the Anthony Henday
- Work with the Jensen Lakes developer to accelerate the construction of Fowler Way, thus easing congestion at the intersection of Hwy 633 and St. Albert Trail and reducing traffic volumes on Villeneuve Road between St. Albert Trail and Ray Gibbon Drive.
- Work with Sturgeon County and Edmonton to develop the strategic plan and construction timeline related to building the north link of 127 street to Hwy 2.
- Introduce high-capacity public transit service from north St. Albert through to employment centres in Edmonton. Whether this be high-capacity express service, Bus Rapid Transit or Light Rail transit will depend on the creation of a regional service delivery model and the funding support of other orders of government.
St Albert is rightly named “The Botanical Arts City.” We are a sustainable City dedicated to a green, ecologically friendly lifestyle. Most near and dear to our hearts are the green spaces, the river, the trees and walkways that allow us to enjoy our natural surroundings. As St. Albert grows, it is imperative that we safeguard and preserve these environmental treasures for future generations. We must never sacrifice our parks for commercial gain. Once a park is re-purposed to any other use, its life as a park ceases to exist.
Environmental initiatives also extend to other areas of St. Albert life. Our City’s commitment to a solid waste system that rewards those who reduce, reuse and recycle has paid significant dividends in increasing our landfill diversion rate. It is gratifying to be involved in a community that takes pride in being environmentally responsible.
Air quality monitoring is essential to managing personal health on days of higher risk. Smoke from forest fires is a summer reality in Western Canada. St. Albert monitors current levels of air quality to ensure that those with respiratory concerns are offered informed insight and adequate warning to take appropriate protective measures.
My environmental priorities for the coming council term are:
- Fully fund the Gray Nuns White Spruce Forest Park plan.
- Reject commercial development that would require the repurposing of existing parks.
- Fund a feasibility study to examine the creation of a large signature park for St. Albert on existing city owned land.
- Commit to the staged replacement of all diesel transit vehicles with electrically powered alternatives.
- Expand the residential air quality monitoring program to allow for a robust data set to be generated throughout the community.