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LETTER: Residents want a fair public hearing

"Say 'no' to changing the land use and zoning for these properties."

At the April 19 public hearing for the city’s new Municipal Development Plan, Flourish, several residents tried to get clarification about a specific part of Flourish, that being Map 3, urban structure and general land use. Map 3 illustrates, in part, mixed-use nodes, which are areas in the city designated for mixed-use development in developing and future neighbourhoods.

One of these mixed-use nodes is in Oakmont, a mature neighbourhood. Since the symbol representing a mixed-use node (MUN) doesn’t precisely show property boundaries, residents attempted to ask council whether the three properties that form the site of the proposed Riverbank Landing development are included within that MUN symbol, thus implying those properties are designated as mixed use.

Why is that important? It’s crucial because coincidentally, a developer submitted another application to the city in November to change the land use for the three properties to, you guessed it, mixed use. The current land use is “low-density residential” for one property adjacent to Oakmont residences, and “commercial” for the other two properties near the Botanica condos and the Shops at Boudreau.

The developer‘s previous application for bylaw amendments and a massive mixed-use development at this location was unanimously defeated by council last year after listening to about 80 persons, almost all opposing the application. The developer’s new application, which is coming before council at a public hearing on June 9, is for essentially the same amendments and similar development concept.

The residents who asked about Map 3 and the Oakmont MUN at the April 19 Flourish public hearing were repeatedly advised not to speak about any specific development. The residents were caught off guard by this restriction and felt it was unfair. Thankfully, some councillors did ask administration to clarify the MUN. What council and the public essentially heard was that Map 3 is high level and conceptual; and details, such as which properties were affected by a MUN symbol, would be determined through subsequent planning documents.

However, it seems the administration had already determined, and for some time, the three properties are in the Oakmont mixed-use node. Why do we think that?

· Administration’s legislation details report that was part of council’s briefing package for the April 19 first reading of the bylaws related to Riverbank Landing clearly states, more than once, that MDP Flourish, Map 3, depicts the site as a mixed-use node. This report is publicly available.

· A development growth mixed-use area map on the city’s website clearly shows the site planned as mixed use.

· Correspondence between administration and with the developer clearly states that the land use designation is mixed-use node for the three properties.

We tried multiple times to inform council of our concerns, but we were told councillors are advised not to read written submissions about the Riverbank Landing development that aren’t sent to the proper city email address.

The public expects council will take into account all written submissions and make their decision only after all stakeholders, especially residents, are given the opportunity to express their views in an open and fair forum, without prejudice to either side. And every citizen in St. Albert would expect council will make a decision on June 9 without the influence of biased internal documentation that seems to predetermine what the land use will be.

We encourage residents from every neighbourhood to write to council and to register to speak at the June 9 public hearing; and to say “no” to changing the land use and zoning for these properties.

Jerry Husar, St. Albert