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EDITORIAL: Good news for taxpayers

ourview

St. Albert city council's recent designation of Rohit lands west of Ray Gibbon Drive as the location of a future recreation centre has the welcome side effect of spurring servicing to the Lakeview Business District.

Lakeview, formerly known as the Employment Lands, has long sat empty and undeveloped. It consists of 617 acres of land and is bounded by Ray Gibbon Drive on the east, Carrot Creek on the west, Township Road 540A on the north and Big Lake on the south. It has been designated as the city's next business park, but developers haven't been able to initiate any of their plans yet because of a lack of servicing and the absence of an area structure plan.

Servicing has arguably been the biggest barrier to getting Lakeview developed. In January, when city councillors accepted Rohit Land Development's offer of a 59-acre parcel of land for future recreation amenities, one factor in their decision-making was that the location would require bringing servicing across Ray Gibbon Drive, where it could reach not only the rec site but also Lakeview.

On Wednesday, during an editorial board meeting with Gazette staff, Mayor Cathy Heron said work to bring servicing across the road could start in as little as 12 months. She called that a "huge economic win," and we agree.

This project needs to be done. St. Albert has a well-known lack of shovel-ready land and the cost of servicing what land we do have has been prohibitive. When councillors initially voted in December 2017 to order an area structure plan for Lakeview, the city ballparked the cost of servicing that district at more than $50 million. Several months later, in April 2018, councillors decided to stall that area structure plan in favour of fast-tracking the city's municipal development plan instead. Heron says she will be pushing to see the ASP funded in next year's budget.

Before councillors voted for the Robit lands in January, they were presented with three potential options for future rec land, including the city-owned Badger Lands north of Villeneuve Road and a parcel of land in Erin Ridge North offered up by Landrex.

For Rohit, the cost of servicing worked out to an estimated $21.8 million, with $14 million of that recoverable, meaning the net capital cost for traditional servicing works out to $7.8 million – the lowest cost of the three parcels, according to city calculations.

Marg Mrazek, the chair for the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, told the Gazette having Lakeview come online would help St. Albert be competitive with other municipalities, bringing jobs to the city and attracting investment.

Most importantly, this will help reduce the residential tax burden St. Albertans currently bear, as more businesses share the tax load.

While city council has long recognized the need to bring more commercial and industrial land online, the prospect of this happening sooner rather than later is welcome news indeed.