St Albert’s plans for industrial land development alongside Carrot Creek will be an environmental, economic and public access disaster and destroy the benefits of a unique regional eco-corridor.
Based on the reports prepared by the City’s independent consultants, the economic and environmental reality for St. Albert to reach the density levels prescribed by the Capital Region Board, they need smart growth. For the City to protect Carrot Creek and lower taxes and maintain their public trail system, they need residential development not industrial on Carrot Creek.
The City Economic Development Department undertook a study (Aecon, 2009) on where industrial land should be located. This study was not a “needs” study as it was indicated to AECON that there had to be in the order of 300 Ha of industrial land. In addition they had to use the lands that the City had designated previously as “Future Study Areas”.
One of the Future Study Area locations that was assessed is referred to in the study as the Central Study Area (CSA). The CSA encompasses the lands adjacent to Carrot Creek and is the proposed location of the Avenir project This AECON report referenced the Natural Areas Review Study (Stantec, 2008) and then made the following statement:
“Carrot Creek itself performs various hydrological functions, such as flood attenuation, groundwater recharge, and organic matter exchange; and contains several microhabitats for several wildlife and plant species. The riparian zone that surrounds the creek is an important habitat for wildlife and plant species. The riparian zone also helps reduce soil erosion along the creek and helps filter out pollutants that could potentially contaminate creek water and local groundwater. Carrot Creek is also part of a provincially significant watershed, being linked downstream with the Big Lake wetland. For the preceding reasons, the function and role of the Carrot Creek corridor require careful attention when designating and planning land uses for the Central Future Study Area. As stated earlier, the policy response in both the IDP and the MDP has been to establish a 50 metre environmental buffer from the Creek.”
The AECON study goes on to comment on the area…
“The proximity to Carrot Creek has two implications: One, residential land use is a viable, strong alternative use. Two, the function and role of the Carrot Creek corridor requires careful attention when planning and designing the land uses for the Central Future Study Area (the Carrot Creek lands), especially with regard to the 50 metre environmental buffer along the creek and with regard to storm water management.”
The startling aspect of all of this is that the City knows from its own reports the environmental sensitivities of Carrot Creek and the lack of need for industrial lands in this area. Yet the City Administration deems it viable to place industrial land fronting onto a new road which will require developers of these industrial lots to provide another environmental design buffer (which the City has not yet defined) to protect Carrot Creek from the damages of industrial land use in this area.
Industrial users won’t want to pay more money to have a front lot facing a sensitive eco corridor and then also have the privilege of being constantly scrutinized for their operations by the public and the City? It is an environmental and economic disaster waiting to happen.
The better solution is to place residential lands in this area and build protective stormwater management systems for the public to enjoy and to protect the eco-corridor. Industrial land users and their bankers consider this eco corridor a liability where residential uses cherish the opportunity of experiencing the eco corridor.
Industrial lands are well suited to the east along Ray Gibbon Drive where the land owners understand this makes sense and the market would be more amenable. But again reason has to come into play here as well in that the need and strategy to market such industrial lands has to be considered in defining how much of these lands are industrial, commercial or residential.
The AECON study recognized the high infrastructure costs for this area and made the obvious observation in their report
“The costs of servicing the Central FSA will be considerable in terms of water, sewer, storm water management and roadways. Further analysis would show whether the land can be brought on stream at a price point that is competitive with the regional industrial land supply”.