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At Morinville Council: net-zero affordable homes and photo radar

Morinville is getting a net-zero affordable housing complex, and will keep photo radar for at least a few months more.

While Coun. Stephen Dafoe did not publically make a motion to discuss Morinville's photo radar contract, he has provided the Gazette with email evidence saying that he asked Mayor Barry Turner for such a discussion to happen in council in September. Said discussion ended up being in a closed session.

Net-zero affordable homes

Morinville will soon be home to one of the first net-zero affordable housing complexes in Alberta.

Town councillors approved a development permit Nov. 27 for a 48-unit affordable housing complex.

The permit came before council (instead of a planning officer, as is typical) because the land it was on was zoned direct control, which gives council complete control over what happens on it. The land is northwest of the town’s cemetery.

Raymond Cormie of Homeland Housing said his group hoped to build a four-storey apartment complex in the middle of this plot with two 2.5-storey townhouses to the east and west. The homes would feature geothermal systems or air-source heat pumps (basically really good heat exchangers), solar panels and excellent insulation so they would produce as much energy as they consumed in a year, resulting in net-zero greenhouse gas emissions at an affordable price.

“To our knowledge, this is one of the first in Alberta,” he said, referring to net-zero affordable housing complexes. (The Eco-Solar Home Tour credits the Right At Home townhouses in Edmonton as the first net-zero energy affordable housing complex in Canada.)

Town resident Danielle Tighe spoke against the development, saying she was opposed to having a four-storey building across the street from her.

Council heard the apartment complex would be 50 meters from the property line of the nearest home, and that it was about half a meter shorter than the maximum height allowed in a comparable residential district.

Coun. Sarah Hall said she was concerned this complex would have just one road access and could push many cars down 101A Street past Morinville Public School.

Council ordered Homeland Housing to complete a traffic impact assessment of their development as part of its permit approval. The group will also have to provide plans for landscaping, parking, and lighting, and create an off-street loading zone.

Photo radar extended

Morinville will keep issuing photo radar tickets for at least a few months more, now that town council has voted to renew its automated traffic enforcement contract.

Council voted 4-2 Nov. 27 to renew the town's contract with its photo radar contractor, Global Traffic Group Ltd., for one year, with the provision that the contract include a 30-day notice requirement for ending it and that administration present options next quarter on how it could do automated enforcement in-house. Councillors Stephen Dafoe and Rebecca Balanko were opposed, while Scott Richardson was absent.

It was a contentious vote, with two previous attempts to extend the contract defeated in tie votes.

The town’s photo radar contract was set to expire next April. Council considered options on the future of automated traffic enforcement in Morinville last September during a closed session.

Dafoe opposed extending the contract, saying council had yet to hold a public debate on whether or not it wanted to keep automated enforcement in town as was required under town policy.

When asked in an interview why he had not made a motion to have such a debate in the months since the last election, Dafoe acknowledged he should have done so.

Coun. Nicole Boutestein argued in favour of the contract, saying photo radar cash was funding projects such as solar lights on walking trails and that the town had seen a drop in tickets issued since photo enforcement began.

“It is working.”

Utility rates approved

Morinville residents will need to find a crisp new Robert Borden to pay for approved hikes to their utility rates next year.

Town council passed third reading of its water, sewer, trash and stormwater rates Nov. 27.

The new rates increase water, sewer and solid waste fees by 2.58 per cent ($36.60 per year) for the average homeowner, and create a new $60-per-year fee for stormwater, which was previously covered by taxes.

The upshot is that the average homeowner can expect to pay $1,514.63 in all utilities next year, or about $96.60 more than they do now. That’s close to the value of a $100 bill, which currently sports the mug of former prime minister Robert Borden.

The new rates kick in Jan. 1, 2019.

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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