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City joins Villeneuve Landing Network; looks at investment

Mayor Cathy Heron said proposals brought to St. Albert through the Collaborative Economic Development (CED) initiative St. Albert joined in 2021 would take priority over those brought forward by the network. 
St. Albert Place 9
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert city council has voted to join a group of organizations aiming to support development and investment in the Villeneuve Airport and surrounding area.  

As part of the group — known as the Villeneuve Landing Network — St. Albert will be presented with investment options in exchange for a proportional share of returns. Council will direct St. Albert’s chief administrative Oofficer (CAO) to complete a partner agreement with Sturgeon County and the Edmonton Regional Airports Authority (ERAA).

Mike Erickson, St. Albert’s director of economic development, told council the partner agreement term is two years, with both parties having a say in the possibility to extend. There will be no fees or costs associated with being a partner, Erickson said, with any investment opportunities being optional. 

Sturgeon County council approved a plan outlining their vision for the Villeneuve Airport area in December. Plans include industrial and commercial development and a hub for conferences and exhibitions, all set to bring around 1,766 new jobs to the region.

The County would net about $1.42 million in taxes each year from the new development, but the cost to get there is steep; servicing for the area, including transport and infrastructure for water and sanitary such as reservoirs and pumps, will cost around $370 million. 

Mayor Cathy Heron said the proposal for Villeneuve Landing Network seems “identical” to a Collaborative Economic Development (CED) initiative 13 regional partners — including St. Albert and Sturgeon County — joined in April 2021. 

CED, also a non-binding agreement, is designed to enable partners to invest in neighbouring municipalities for a share of the revenue. 

“Has that feedback been given to Sturgeon County that this is just CED packaged in another type of wrapping paper?” Heron asked. 

Erickson said the comments “have been shared,” but the County would like to bring partners on through the Villeneuve Landing Network process. 

“They feel it’s a separate entity,” Erickson said.  

Heron told Erickson proposals brought to St. Albert through the CED process would take priority over those brought forward by the network. 

St. Albert joined a formal Villeneuve Landing Network stakeholder group in 2021 alongside other municipalities and organizations, including the City of Edmonton and the Town of Morinville. 

Sturgeon County requested that parties prepare to confirm interest in joining the network this month. 

Erickson told council that within the two-year agreement term, parties can withdraw from the agreement if they give two months' notice. 

A former network agreement draft from May 2021 outlined that members would contribute fees to support economic development initiatives for the Villeneuve Airport area, including marketing, and investment-attraction activities. A revised agreement structure from April 2022 eliminated these fees. 

While putting the motion forward, Coun. Ken MacKay described the decision to join as “low risk.” 

“It also shows our interest in being a regional partner and working with our neighbours around possibly identifying opportunities or at least exploring them,” MacKay said. "There's no risk. I think there's only opportunity."

The decision to join the Villeneuve Landing Network passed unanimously. 

Rachel Narvey

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