By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Council gave unanimous second and third reading to a slightly amended Coeur de Morinville Area Structure Plan (ASP) June 11, putting the seal of approval on a project Planning and Development has spent the last year on. The ASP creates policy direction on 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. Additionally, two open houses were held at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre as well as a public hearing prior to the June 11 Council vote.
Open house concerns expressed
Some of those who own property in the area were in attendance at the public hearing to ask questions or offer their opinion.
One of the major issues for the ASP is a requirement for two storey structures on a significant portion of 100 Avenue and a small part of 100 Street. New developments or redevelopments where property owners are starting from a clean slate would require the erection of a two-storey facility. Other than that, properties would be grandfathered Morinville’s Director of Planning and Development Greg Hofmann said.
“We have made it very clear in the provisions by stating everything that is in existence legally at the time of the bylaw being passed is a conforming use, and that gives them rights,” Hofmann said. “We’re not intent on bulldozing things and seeing two-storey developments. This is a transitional document. These are transitional provisions, which are going to give the street life over a very long period of time.”
Local businessman Tom Hammond spoke twice during the ASP public hearing, ending his presentation with a statement that drew applause from others in the gallery. Hammond was concerned with the ASP’s two-storey requirement to increase density along the street and make better use of the available space.
“It’s having a planner, [and] I’m not knocking you guys, tell us what to do with our property,” Hammond said. “You’re saying make the best use of it. We’d like to make the best use of it too. If I own a piece of property and I decide to operate it as a single storey space, and the Town says no I can’t do that – I have a problem with that. It’s my money, my business. The people that are here own the property already. To say you can’t do this, you can’t do that – I just have a basic problem with that, and to say it doesn’t fit your vision. It may not, but it may fit my vision. I find it distasteful to have someone tell me what I can do with property that I own.”
Mayor Paul Krauskopf, in wrapping up the public hearing said it is important to look at the bigger picture. “I know people don’t like change, but the thing is sometimes you need to step outside your comfort zone and get up there about 20,000 feet and have a look see,” the mayor said. “I think you will see a different picture. You need to look at the whole picture. I know it’s tough for changes, but it’s a lot broader than that.”
The Coeur de Morinville Area Structure Plan has worked in connection with the Highway 642 Functional Planning Study (FPS), the latter project having previously been approved by Council in the hopes Alberta Transportation will approve the document to allow further development on 100 Avenue, something that has been problematic in the past due to a 10-metre setback requirement for all proposed developments.
Administration sees the Coeur de Morinville ASP as 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.
With the ASP passed, anyone wishing to develop or redevelop on 100 Avenue or a small protion of 100 Street would be required to make their building a minimum of two stories, although the document is encouraging four story structures to encourage mixed commercial and residential usage.
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 who worked on the ASP sees as essential for future success in the downtown core.
Parking would continue to be on both sides of 100 Avenue and 100 Street as well as in lots primarily at the rear of buildings where a laneway exists. Administration has said a common downtown parking lot could be a possibility at some point down the road if and when development and traffic warrants such a move.