2020 is shaping up to be a busy year with some critical decisions coming down the line for our local leaders.
Plans for the city's future development hinge in part on where council decides to locate a new recreation centre. Councillors have now had three months to digest the three suggested locations city admin presented in September: Erin Ridge North, Badger Lands or Range Road 260 west of Ray Gibbon Drive.
The locations each come with a price tag for servicing costs, which admin said ranges from a low net cost of $7.1 million for Badger Lands to a high of $14.3 million for Erin Ridge North.
When councillors finally hash out which one to choose, they will be setting a direction for the future growth of our city. They will need to ask themselves which option best suits the needs of residents and whether cost should be the deciding factor. In the meantime, they can expect growing pressure from residents and interest groups who want their preferred location to be the one selected.
Although there's no money in the 2020 budget to actually plan the future recreation centre, choosing a location will also help set the stage for the completion of St. Albert's new municipal development plan (MDP) – a foundational document that directs where and how St. Albert will grow over the coming years as it approaches a population of 100,000. That document in turn will open up possibilities for future developments: namely, area structure plans for Badger Lands and Lakeview Business District can proceed once the revised MDP is in place. Both of these parcels of land have languished without area structure plans for years, and in Lakeview, the prospect of finally putting one in place means land owners and potential developers will finally be able to move their plans forward – contingent, of course, upon getting the land serviced. Servicing is an expensive proposition and council will need to decide whether it wants to encourage faster development by paying up front and collecting from developers later.
The waste-to-energy project is another significant decision that council will be tasked with. That’s been made more difficult, perhaps, by the decision not to proceed with a municipal utility corporation and the fact the pilot project will be located not in St. Albert, but at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre.
And let's not forget the ongoing discussions between St. Albert and Sturgeon County to annex county land, which is also imperative to accommodate St. Albert's future growth. Annexation discussions aren't being held publicly but the two municipalities have released a map of the preliminary negotiated annexation area, and St. Albert has been taking public feedback on that map. This decision, too, will shape how St. Albert develops.
All of these decisions will help set the stage for a sustainable future for St. Albert. Opening up land and clearing the way for area structure plans should further our goal of growing our commercial sector, which will in turn help to keep tax increases to a minimum. When our business community grows, residents benefit. 2020 could prove to be a pivotal year for our city and the region.