For the first time in over 20 years, St. Albert city council passed a new foundational guiding document on Monday, but not without significant discussion and debate.
A municipal development plan (MDP) is a high-level document intended to be a ‘view from 50,000 feet.’ It is the underlying document influencing all other city planning documents, from area structure plans to building permits, guiding St. Albert through significant population growth in the coming decade.
Heron recognized council's achievement in passing the MDP after it received third reading.
“This is not really about lines on a map … it’s about policy statements of our values, and they layer upon each other to guide our direction,” Heron said. “It allows council to direct growth and be proactive about where growth will be, because we can’t grow everywhere willy-nilly. We have to be very strategic in how we grow, and this plan provides that direction.
During the three-hour continuation of the public hearing on April 19, about 15 St. Albertans raised several questions and comments about the new MDP, dubbed 'Flourish'. The first hearing on March 15 heard from the Big Lake Environment Support Society (BLESS) and the Urban Development Instutite (UDI) Edmonton chapter on outstanding concerns.
Planners Katie Mahoney and Kristine Peter worked together on creating the final version, along with city staff, residents and stakeholders through four rounds of public engagement. The draft MDP plan launched last November for feedback, along with a webinar and short questionnaire on the final stage of the project. The project to write a new MDP first started back in 2018.
Mahoney began her presentation on Monday by explaining that since the last public hearing, staff had reviewed and responded to all 10 proposed amendments, all of which were not supported by planning and development.
Many presenters spoke about the 'infamous pink blob' on Map 3 within the MDP, which labelled an area in Oakmont as intended for mixed-use instead of commercial/residential. Mayor Cathy Heron had to mute speakers several times when there was specific reference to Boudreau Communities' Riverbank Landing development to prevent perceived bias before the June 9 public hearing.
"The glossary of 'Flourish' defines mixed use as an area within new neighbourhoods. Map 3 shows all of the mixed-use nodes, except for one, are in new neighbourhoods," said resident James Dean.
Mahoney and Peter explained that the MDP does not detail specific property boundaries for a reason, but any designation of land use can be decided through subsequent area structure plans.
Courtney Jensen with the UDI Edmonton chapter, also presented asking council to reconsider amending language within the MDP that seemed either too vague or too restrictive for a high-level planning document.
Some of the proposed amendments from council could have triggered another review from the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board (EMRB), which would have put back the MDP adoption process by at least a few months. To avoid that, council decided to approve the MDP document first, with amendments brought back after the fact.
Hughes made the majority of proposed amendments, most of which were voted down or withdrawn. However, one of the amendments which would remove requirements around small block sizes in new neighbourhoods, will come back to council.
Coun. Jacquie Hansen also gave a notice of motion to remove employment lands classification on sensitive environmental areas south of Meadowview Drive. There's no specific timeline for when that will come back to council, and will likely be a decision of the next council of the day.