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Rules for Sturgeon Valley planning approved

Sturgeon Valley residents can start planning their future now that the Edmonton Metro board has set the growth rules for their neighbourhood.
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VALLEY PLAN – This graphic shows the different planning areas in the Sturgeon Valley Special Study Area. The red area C is the existing acreage lot development, which will stay mostly the same under the plan. The green area D to the north will remain farmland. Areas A and B will have an average density of 35 units per hectare as they develop.

Sturgeon Valley residents can start planning their future now that the Edmonton Metro board has set the growth rules for their neighbourhood.

Edmonton-area leaders voted 12-1 in favour of the Sturgeon Valley Special Study Area Negotiated Policies at a meeting of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board Dec. 13 (Fort Saskatchewan Mayor Gale Katchur opposed).

Edmonton, St. Albert and Sturgeon County feuded for years over how to build out the Sturgeon Valley region prior to 2016. As a compromise, the governments designated the valley as a “special study area” when they inked the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Growth Plan in 2016 – shorthand for “we’ll figure out the rules for here later.”

After two years of negotiations, the three governments agreed on broad principles to guide the valley’s growth and brought them to the Edmonton Metro board for approval.

Sturgeon County has spent the last 10 years looking to update the valley’s area structure plan, but had to set density targets for the valley under the metro board’s growth plan first, said Mayor Alanna Hnatiw in an interview. That was tricky, as the board’s growth plan said the valley was supposed to be rural in the north (which was mostly full of acreages) but dense and urban in the south (which was empty fields) with no leeway for a transition.

The special study area plan is meant to create a transition between high-density St. Albert and Edmonton, and the low-density valley community.

The plan says the core built-out part of the valley will have its current development rules grandfathered and stay the way it is to preserve its character. The lands north of the core will be kept as farmland, while the lands south toward St. Albert and Edmonton will see denser development, averaging 35 units per hectare but varying between 20 and 125 (assuming a proposed transit centre is built) and becoming less dense as you move toward the valley’s core.

Katchur opposed the plan. She argued the board had no way to ensure this region would meet its density target as it would be built out under three separate area structure plans – unless they all came before the board at once, they couldn't tell if they collectively met the target.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said the special study area plan took a “meringue” instead of a “peanut butter” approach to density in the south so some parts could be less dense than others, allowing for a transition from the city to the county and concentrating growth into nodes for easier servicing. The board would track this region’s growth at every stage of the planning process to see if it was on track to meet its density goals.

“If it’s not, we will have something to say about it,” he said.

Hnatiw said the approval of this plan means the county can now work with residents and developers on area structure plans for the valley, all of which will be subject to approval by the board. The county would continue to work closely with St. Albert and Edmonton on other valley issues such as the future of 127 Street and Riverlot 56.

Iveson said this plan would give Edmonton certainty when it came to growth on its northern border, which would affect transit and traffic plans.

St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron said this plan would not directly affect St. Albert, but noted it did protect farmland, which was a priority for her. It also includes land St. Albert is trying to annex; that land will be subject to the city’s 40-unit-per-hectare density target, should that happen.

The text of the special study area plan is available in the agenda package for the board’s Dec. 13 meeting.

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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