On Wednesday morning St. Albert residents came out in droves to speak about the Riverbank Landing development proposed for land next to the current Botanica building in Oakmont.
St. Albert city council will hear throughout the day from 60 registered speakers about the project, which would be constructed over five to seven years on the side adjacent to the Shops at Boudreau.
The development would see five buildings on the former Hole's Greenhouses site, two of which are 40 and 50 metres high, with 360 residential units and about 67,700 square feet of commercial space (for reference, the Botanica building next to the site is 37 metres tall).
Residents in favour of the development spoke about the desire to live in a walkable community with a European feel.
Sue Trenchard, who currently lives in the Botanica building, said she hopes Riverbank Landing will allow for future generations to stay in St. Albert and enjoy the ambiance of a vibrant area.
“This beautiful piece of land totally lends itself to a mixed-use walkable area and Riverbank Landing will appeal to all ages."
Mel Brough, who also lives in Botanica, spoke in favour of the neighbouring development on behalf of 10 other people.
Brough and his wife moved into the building after their kids left home and they no longer wanted to look after a large, single-family home. Since moving into the building, Brough said his social life has been vibrant in the condo community.
“The social opportunities here are second to none. Prior to COVID-19, we had a weekly happy hour that occasionally (turned into) a small block party,” Brough said.
He said many other condo-dwellers walk or are downsizing their vehicles, adding there are 16 vehicles for the 15 condo units on his floor.
“That is proof the majority of residents have reduced their automotive transportation requirements,” Brough said.
The development will also provide more tax revenue for the city, Brough said, with many residents in the condo paying more taxes than single-family homes on the land could generate.
Dustin Bizon, a resident who lives on Erin Ridge Drive, spoke in favour of the development, and said that while many of those in opposition cite traffic concerns, he does not feel like traffic is bad in the area
Many in opposition want the city to maintain a small-town feel, Bizon said, but so far that hasn’t created great planning choices.
“That small-town thinking and planning got us a riverbank view of the backside of the Canadian Tire, a mall, and a boat dealer,” Bizon said.
Steven Nutzenberger, who lives in Edmonton but works in St. Albert, came out in support of the development, and said the lack of developments such as this is one of the reasons he lives in Edmonton.
“This development is what the future of St. Albert needs. If St. Albert truly wants to grow and attract younger professionals to work and live in the city, then you need to build inspiring and exciting communities like Riverbank Landing,” Nutzenberger said.
Those in opposition came out to speak against the project, with many residents citing traffic concerns, noise, character of the community, height of the buildings, and making changes to an already established neighbourhood.
Donald Thompson said the buildings would wall off the river valley.
““This is not just a walling off, it’s a great wall,” he said.
Thompson said the city shouldn't allow for changing the zoning when people purchased their homes not expecting this development.
“It is totally inconsistent to the commitments you have made to us as property owners, not the future ones and not the land developers,” Thompson said.
“In purchasing our home in Oakmont 15 years ago, we were comforted by the city's commitments made in many documents from the area structure plan and strategic documents. The botanic art city has consistently told us that it valued and sought to protect and improve the character, the city, and the Sturgeon River valley,” Thompson said
Marian Mucha also spoke in opposition, and said the project just isn’t right for the area.
“I dread to think what the future will hold with this development,” Mucha said. “I believe this proposed development could be fine elsewhere, not in a mature community”
Brenda Randall, an Erin Ridge resident, said the traffic is already bad in the neighbourhood and more residents will make it worse.
“Basically, if this goes through, they're going to plop another 720 residents down in our neighbourhood, plus businesses and even more traffic congestion. Traffic is now a nightmare. The current (road) construction addresses current traffic, not future high-density development,” Randall said.
Doug Hartman, who spoke on behalf of 28 other residents, spoke out against Riverbank Landing being built at the proposed location, as it would ruin the character of the area.
“By using another location, our city would still receive significant tax revenue without walling off prime riverbank land,” Hartman said.
“We believe the towers and population densities that would be allowed for the passing of the proposed bylaws will ruin the character of the river valley.”
Before the lunch break, 12 speakers addressed council, with many speaking on behalf of many residents.
Some 80 residents are expected to speak to council by the end of the day.