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St. Albert isn't budging on controversial Erin Ridge condo development

Residents plea for change to designs of development, saying increased traffic will put school children in danger

St. Albert city council will not take action on revisiting approval of a contentious condominium development in Erin Ridge North, despite mass protest from area residents on current designs.

Safety of children was top of mind for the 34 residents and their kids who appeared at council’s governance, priorities and finance committee meeting Monday to express their concerns. Eight residents signed up to speak before the committee.

St. Albert’s chief administrative officer Kevin Scoble stressed the matter is not a governance one, and the developer already met all requirements for council approval through public engagement in 2010 when the Erin Ridge North Area Structure Plan (ASP) was approved.

The development is now before the subdivision development authority for approval to subdivide a 2.3-hectare parcel known as 50 Edinburgh Court into a 59-unit bareland condominium.

Administration said the city received 55 responses from area residents, mainly related to traffic concerns after feedback on the subdivision application was requested.

Largely, area residents fear how future homeowners of 50 Edinburgh Place will access the condominium, and implications on traffic volumes in an already buzzing school area. Current designs show access will be provided by bulldozing through the ends of Elise Place and Edinburgh Court, which are accessed off of Everitt Drive North right in front of Lois E. Hole Elementary School.

Residents argue this would create an influx of vehicles to an area that has already seen significant traffic calming measures to deal with what one resident described as “organized chaos” during school pick-up and drop-off.

“The creation of this development with the proposed vehicle access creates the perfect storm,” said Sandy Clark.

As part of the ASP approval process, a traffic impact assessment (TIA) was done for Erin Ridge North in 2009. Scoble said 2019 daily vehicle traffic counts account for 65 to 98 per cent of long-term projections for the TIA, and traffic counts on Everitt Drive represent 50 per cent of the maximum industry volume.

An additional TIA was conducted this month in response to residents’ opposition. It anticipated completion of the condominium would result in 556 daily trips split between the two access roads, Elise and Edinburgh.

One resident, Kari McKnight, noted the timing of the TIA during summer months when school is out, and requested another TIA be done which includes counts when school is on.

Presentations from residents were united in their final request of council: that the city conducts a feasibility study for utilizing Neil Ross Road as the condo’s access point. The road is designated to be an arterial road that will eventually connect with Edmonton’s 127 Street.

Administration said using Neil Ross Road “is not warranted or recommended.”

Later in the meeting, Scoble said the developer would have to redesign the development at their own cost and lose a construction season.

“There are some reputational implications. Due process has to be followed and even if we had legal grounds do something, it would certainly be an impact on the reputation of investing in St. Albert,” he added.

Administration noted the city was accepting bids until Aug. 14 to complete a functional analysis for the Neil Ross Road extension.

Residents argued when public hearings took place for the development, the area was largely undeveloped and uninhabited, and Lois E. Hole School had not yet been opened. But administration noted the original ASP took the school site into account, along with potential closure of Coal Mine Road, which has resulted in more vehicles using Everitt Drive.

Mayor Cathy Heron said council made no direction to administration to take any action during Monday’s meeting, but residents are always welcome to speak to council.

“I feel for the residents and we want to hear them, but sometimes when you listen and you don’t take action doesn’t mean you weren’t heard. Because they were heard,” she said.

She added it is not uncommon to have traffic issues in front of schools, and the city has already spent millions of dollars on its Safe Journeys to School initiative.

Scoble said during his presentation a lesson learned through this situation is administration needs to reconsider “when and how courtesy notices” are provided to residents.

Hannah Lawson

About the Author: Hannah Lawson

Hannah Lawson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2019 after working as editor of the Athabasca Advocate. She writes about city hall.
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