County severs agreement with St. Albert

By Stephen Dafoe

Sturgeon County – Despite eleventh-hour protestations from St. Albert Council, Sturgeon County withdrew from a nearly decade-long municipal planning agreement with the neighbouring municipality June 22.

Council voted unanimously on all three readings of a bylaw to repeal their participation in the intermunicipal development plan (IDP) it has shared with St. Albert since 2001, an alliance that governed how developments were handled along the two municipalities’ shared border.

Prior to casting their votes County Council heard from administration that the plan was a little out of date with respect to what had been occurring in the region over the past decade, and that the document focused largely on future urban expansion and annexation.

The County’s decision to abandon the IDP was motivated by information gathered from several weeks of consultation with County residents who own land along the IDP boundary and by the earlier approval of the Capital Region Growth Plan (CRGP). Council had previously directed administration during its Apr. 15 meeting to gather information on repealing the IDP.

Sturgeon County Mayor Donald Rigney said he felt the IDP added another level of bureaucracy, effectively suppressing the growth opportunities for the two municipalities, and that the CRGP, which unites the region’s 25 municipalities, made the document redundant. However, the Mayor pointed out that he believed it did not mark the end of the county’s long-standing relationship with St. Albert.

“I believe a rising tide lifts all ships,” he said, adding that he felt new opportunities would surface between the County and St. Albert that would be more inclusive, modern and productive, allowing the entire region and its residents to prosper.

Rigney was not alone in his opinion that the decision to repeal was a good one.

“I believe that we’re taking a positive step today,” said Division 3 Councillor Ken McGillis. “It’s time to move on in our relationship with our neighbour, and I have every confidence that we’ll be able to move on in a very positive way and work collaboratively for the good of our greater community.”

In a letter from St. Albert City Council dated the morning of the meeting, Mayor Nolan Crouse formally requested that Sturgeon County not repeal the IDP, noting that “St. Albert City Council sees the IDP as an important guiding document, as there are key elements addressed in the IDP that are not covered in either provincial legislation or the Capital Region Growth Plan.”

St. Albert’s opinion was that if the plan was repealed, a process would need to be created to cooperatively address such elements. It was an opinion not shared by Division 2 Councillor Tom Flynn, whose division borders the IDP.

Flynn said he has spent considerable time over the past year studying the document and witnessed some of the things that happened as a result of it.

“One of the concerns that all of us have is about cooperation between municipalities,” he said. “I haven’t seen a mechanism that encourages it but doesn’t legislate it. There must be a will on the behalf of all the municipalities involved at all times to develop a cooperative model. I don’t think you can put that in writing. I don’t think this document has been successful in doing that.”

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