Open house looks at heart of Morinville

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Morinville – The Town of Morinville will hold a final open house on the Coeur de Morinville Area Structure Plan (ASP) May 16 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. with a formal presentation on the document at 7:15 p.m.

The project began in May of 2012 and has been involved creating policy direction over the past year dealing with how downtown Morinville, including 100 Avenue, 100 Street and the adjacent neighbourhoods should develop and evolve over a number of years. That policy direction was created with consultation from Morinville business owners operating in the downtown area. All business owners on 100 Avenue and 100 Street, as well as those in adjacent areas, were invited to speak with the Town on the project.

Consultant Project Manager Vicki Dodge said the Coeur de Morinville Area Structure Plan has worked in connection with the Highway 642 Functional Planning Study (FPS), the latter project having recently held a final open house to show residents and business owners what is being proposed to Alberta Transportation to allow further development on 100 Avenue, something that has been problematic due to a 10-metre setback requirement for all proposed developments.

Dodge explained the Coeur de Morinville ASP is primarily a policy document for downtown that examines the two main streets and spaces between with respect to how they will develop commercially and residentially over time.

It is work both Dodge and Morinville’s Director of Planning and Development, Greg Hofmann, says is of a sensitive nature in that it looks to ensure mature residential neighbourhoods maintain what it is that makes them special now. That sensitivity extends to transition zones, including the south end of 103 Street, where commercial meets residential.

Dodge said in cases where commercial property is adjacent to residential areas in the downtown core, the policy would guide towards the type of businesses that would have a minimal impact on neighbouring residences.

“When someone down the road wants to make an application for a land use that is enabled under the Land Use Bylaw, the person who is going to evaluate that application can look at the Area Structure Plan and then look at the application documents and supporting materials and ask if what this person is proposing is consistent with what the plan wants to have happen over time,” she explained. “It’s a tool to help people in the position of making decisions on these developments evaluate the merits of those applications.”

Not a beautification plan

Although the ASP sets down some policy for downtown in terms of how homes and shops should look, feel and blend as the community grows and evolves over time, Dodge said it is not a downtown revitalization or beautification project. However, the document does lay down a policy foundation on which such a project could grow, one that would likely be initiated by the Chamber of Commerce or a Downtown Business Association at some point in the future.

“The idea of having a set theme and everybody putting their money together so that you improve the front of your business so they all kind of look like you’re following the same [theme] – that is a specific interpretation of an idea to improve the aesthetics of a downtown,” Dodge said, adding such a concept would be considered a revitalization plan. “This [ASP] is a little higher level than that. This would give the direction for someone to take that initiative in the future if they wanted to do it, and it would be supportive of that kind of initiative, generally speaking.”

From a Town direction, Dodge said a future beautification project would more likely be in the vein of paver stones and planters on the sidewalk than creating themed facades for business along 100 Avenue and 100 Street. The ASP does not deal with or suggest such initiatives.

What it does do is create, in conjunction with the Highway 642 FPS, a plan whereby businesses can develop into a true downtown feel within the existing 30-metre right of way without being hindered by the additional 10-metre setback now required for new development.

“That is why the area structure plan and the functional plan had to be done together,” Hofmann said. “You do need to know the requirements of the spine of the thing before you start to fill out the rest of it. The area structure plan will fill out the rest of it. I think it will make a huge difference over time that we know what our starting point is and it’s going to be the same at the end.”

The ASP encourages commercial development close to or right up to the sidewalks as well as opportunities for mixed-use development, particularly along 100 Avenue and 100 Street. The idea of commercial and office space on the ground floor with residential accommodation above is something the project team sees as a recipe for success.

“It’s a really good use of space. It’s a really good use of infrastructure. And it’s a really good way of getting people living closer to the amenities,” Dodge said. “Your downtown will become more successful when more people visit it.”

Last chance to view before plan heads to Council

The May 16 open house is the last opportunity to view the ASP before it is taken to Council for adoption. “The intent is, much the same as we did with the functional plan, review why the plan was needed in the first place, generally how we went about getting it done, and then going over the general guiding principles,” Dodge explained. “Those guiding principles will then inform the way we approach policy development. Then we’ll talk about the key policy areas: commercial, residential, the infill and redevelopment.”

The open house will provide an overview of the ASP’s concepts and policies without delving too deeply into detail. Dodge said participants would come away with enough information to feel comfortable knowing what the direction of the plan is with respect to the commercial and residential areas downtown.

The ASP open house takes place at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre May 16 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The formal presentation on the project starts at 7:15 p.m. for more information contact Vicki Dodge at 780-939-7859.

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