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LETTER: Respect the Municipal Development Plan – reject Riverbank Landing

"St. Albert deserves a development that complements Red Willow Park and ensures lands adjacent to it are complementary to its character."
letter-sta

City Council has decided to close off 2020 with a raft of announcements that should give the denizens of this botanic metropolis some concern. Council’s decision to give first reading to an updated Municipal Development Plan – flourish, caught my attention.

The St Albert Gazette subsequently reported on the Mayor espousing the release of the DRAFT Municipal Development Plan and its important role in guiding future development etc. However, I find it hypocritical to go on about the importance of the MDP when Council continues to embrace developers who choose to rewrite it to satisfy their interests at the expense of other landowners who have relied on the MDP and associated Area Structure Plan (ASP) to make their investments.

Those investments carry a cumulative value in the millions of dollars that are already paying taxes. I am not challenging the right of landowners to seek a rezoning, however I am challenging the integrity of Council to uphold the principals and intents of the MDP as a key guidance document for development in the city. Processes are in place that obligate Council to  publicly air the merits and benefits of any rezoning request.

The most recent Boudreau Communities Riverbank Landing proposal in Oakmont to significantly alter the use, scope and scale of development is troublesome. The developer is now returning a second time to seek changes that will directly affect adjacent landowners and all St. Albert residents utilizing the Boudreau Road – Bellerose Drive interchange. An added concern is the encroachment on the adjacent use of Red Willow Park.

While many surrounding municipalities are now jealously safeguarding their river valleys and wetlands for the benefit of all residents, St. Albert has chosen not to take similar action. Consequently one of the few remaining land tracts in St Albert that offers exceptional vistas of the river valley could now be intended for a 50m tall building. To add insult to potential injury, the development proposes to use adjacent parkland as a utility corridor.

The potential property tax revenue from this development pales in comparison to the property assessment and taxes of the combined Erin Ridge and Oakmont communities, yet Council appears to be keen on accommodating the rezoning. And here is where the MDP comes into play. Under the current MDP - City Plan and Oakmont ASP there was no provision for such a scale of development. Now fast forward to the DRAFT MDP - flourish and those same lands are now identified for Mixed Use Node.

Admittedly, the DRAFT MDP is still up for a public hearing before Council is obligated to make a decision. However, by all appearances the writing is on the wall. I believe it is time that residents demand Council honour the intents of the current MDP. These are mature neighbourhoods. They have been developed largely in line with the current MDP. Council should be challenged to honour its commitment to long range planning  that has governed the development of Erin Ridge and Oakmont, and deny the scope, scale and location of the Riverbank Landing proposal.

St. Albert deserves a development that complements Red Willow Park and ensures lands adjacent to it are complementary to its character.

Ken Crutchfield, St. Albert