The Jan. 29 open house for Riverbank Landing was very well attended by residents. In fact, so many people turned out it was at times impossible to get close enough to the display boards and was difficult to ask questions. The site layout board and traffic info drew the most attention and it seems I heard at least three different answers given to essentially the same questions around traffic flow and traffic data.
I heard traffic solutions were “planned”, then they said they were “proposed”, then they said anything's “possible” by mid-2020s (2025?). I I spoke with several people who shared my view that the open house storyboard format of the meeting, while a good marketing sales pitch, was not as informative as a formal presentation with Q&A, which would have provided everyone with a consistent set of info and answers from the developer and that would have been “on the record” for everyone. For example, there was much talk about the info on the traffic board about Pittsburgh using AI at 50 intersections to reduce traffic congestion, however a quick check of their website shows this project's massive cost was paid for by “charitable foundations,” not by businesses, taxpayers or developers, as it way too expensive and risky and expansion would only be possible if funded by federal grants.
I heard many concerns raised, mainly about the high density, issues with traffic congestion and being overlooked by two 26-storey buildings. It's clear the residents of Oakmont have concerns about being overlooked by these towers, but I also spoke with people who recently bought very expensive condos in Botanica 1 and 2 that were not happy with being overlooked by giant towers. Apparently they were not told about the towers when they purchased their condos. It makes me wonder what else the developer is not telling us.
I also heard many people were concerned that it was just a matter of “when” not “if” this would be approved by city council as the land use bylaw has already been approved for Grandin Village for three towers of 25, 25, 20 storeys. As well the DARP approved by council in October 2016 shows the potential (if a developer was to initiate a redevelopment proposal) for two 10- to 25-storey buildings, one behind the curling rink and a second one in the Running Room / Capital Pizza lot.
Seemingly a precedent has been somewhat set in motion to allow 25-storey buildings in St. Albert. But these are in only one very specfic area of the downtown as laid out in the DARP. This should not mean they are set in concrete and apply everywhere else like Riverbank Landing.
However, council potentially approving this could set a very far-reaching dangerous precedent for all areas and all residents of St. Albert. Imagine if the developer of Riverside asked for a zoning change for a 25-storey building to some of their vacant land – it would have great access to Ray Gibbon, great views of the river and White Spruce Forest and overlook existing residents' homes. Imagine the vacant land along Poirier Ave. having a developer ask that the zoning being changed to allow a 25-storey building, or any existing school or church site being sold to a developer and the developer asking for the zoning to be changed to accommodate a 25-storey building.
The concern for council potentially approving Riverbank Landing for 25-storey buildings could potentially affect all areas of St. Albert. All residents should be writing to council expressing their views on Riverbank rezoning – your council is open to input from residents at any time. Waiting until the public hearing on June 8 is too late, I encourage everyone to do it now.
Mike Killick, St. Albert