By Stephen Dafoe
Sturgeon County – County Council voted 4-3 Tuesday morning in favour of a moratorium on development in the Cardiff area until an area structure plan (ASP) is devised.
The idea of a moratorium on development was initially brought to council Feb. 14 as a notice of motion from Councillor Tom Flynn after the councillor received approximately 100 phone calls from Cardiff residents concerned about development in the area.
A motion to table the matter until May was defeated Tuesday morning and Flynn’s motion to put a moratorium on multi-lot residential subdivision rezoning in Cardiff around Morinville and land close to Cardiff Echoes, Cardiff Pittsburg and Cardiff Park passed with a majority of council. Councillors Don McGeachy, David Kluthe and Mayor Don Rigney voted against the motion. The moratorium will remain in effect until an area structure plan can be completed for the area.
The council vote followed presentations from Susan Evans, representing Cardiff residents, and Norm Suvan, president of Nor-Chris Holdings Inc., the developer of the proposed 190-lot Estates of Cardiff development. Evans brought a number of concerns to council on the impact residential developments like Estates of Cardiff could have on the community; Suvan expressed his belief most of those concerns had been addressed in open houses his company held on the project.
Opposed to ad hoc development
Evans was accompanied by approximately 12 Cardiff residents and brought to council a petition signed by 130 residents of the hamlet. The community spokesperson said she and her neighbours were concerned that development without a proper area structure plan would take away from the rural life many people had moved to Cardiff to obtain.
“In our hearts we want to protect that unique fabric of our community, and preserve it,” Evans said, adding the people she spoke for were not opposed to development but sees development with the caveat that there must be an ASP before any and all projects proceed in the area. “Low density would support and ensure the rural way of life, which drew the majority of residents to Cardiff in the first place.”
Evans and her group are concerned the current infrastructure in the area for both water and sewer is aging and becoming less reliable, and that hydrants have less than sufficient pressure for fire suppression. By adding even one large development like Estates of Cardiff, Evans and her fellow residents are concerned there will be increased stress on infrastructure as well as fire, policing and bylaw enforcement services.
The spokesperson advocated for a joint area structure plan between Morinville and Sturgeon County that would ultimately allow community, County and developer to preserve the fabric of the area.
Evans also expressed concerns about the plans to pave Cardiff Road to Highway 28, and rumours that Morinville was hoping to divert traffic off Highway 642 and along Cardiff Road to Highway 28. Although she said residents are generally supportive of paving Cardiff Road, there are concerns about increased commercial traffic and an increase in the speed limit to 100 kilometres per hour ahead of the 50 km/h zone passing through the community.
“That road is going through the heart of Cardiff,” she said. “We have kids going back and forth across that road. It is a pedestrian way as well.”
Evans said she and her neighbours know development and growth in the area is inevitable, but hopes to see the province, Morinville and Sturgeon County working together to do the right things with respect to the road. They are looking for the County to allow development after a plan is in place to properly guide and regulate it.
Concerned with delay in project
Norm Suvan of of Nor-Chris Holdings Inc. said he was troubled concerns about his development were coming forward in the 11th hour. “We’ve always found council positive and progressive,” Suvan said, adding his company had followed Sturgeon County’s guidelines and procedures over the past six years and did everything requested by council and existing residents.“ We need your support to proceed, not another delay.”
Suvan said his development had a narrow window of opportunity to bring the project to fruition, and that, according to his transportation analysis, the 90 lots proposed for the first phase of the development would have little impact on Cardiff.
“We are offering a lot of benefits to the County,” Suvan said, alluding to the onsite and offsite contributions to needed infrastructure to support the development.
In response to concerns his development would offer a higher density than residents would like, Suvan explained all his lot sizes were larger than the minimum lot size identified for hamlets in Sturgeon County. “Some of the lots along the easterly edge are half acre lots, fully serviced,” Suvan said, noting many back onto recreational land. “The rest of the lots are very large, well over the minimum size that’s in the hamlet.”
Suvan dismissed concerns about sink holes from Cardiff’s days as a mining community affecting the development, an issue raised during Evan’s presentation to council. “We couldn’t sell a lot to anyone with the thought it could be collapsing,” Suvan said. “We are responsible developers and we want to put something on the market people will buy.”
Council split on development moratorium
In discussing his motion Feb. 28, Councillor Tom Flynn said he brought the motion forward on behalf of the community after receiving approximately 100 phone calls from residents. “There are still far too many questions that have to be answered for the area,” Flynn said, noting work with Morinville is being done to discuss the impact of the proposed Cardiff Road overpass on the community.
Councillor Karen Shaw was leery on the idea of a moratorium on development, but was concerned with more development in the County being done on an ad hoc basis without a firm plan in place. The councillor said it would be negligent to just rubber stamp the Estates of Cardiff development because the company had spent six years on it.
Councillor Ken McGillis was also apprehensive about a moratorium. “This is one of the more challenging items that we’ve dealt with in the recent past,” he said. “In the issue of fairness and objectivity we should be looking at what mile posts we need to be looking at to lift the moratorium.”
For Councillor Don McGeachy, the idea of a moratorium simply was not palatable. “It’s morphed from NIMBY, not in my backyard to BANANA [build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything],” McGeachy said.
Mayor Don Rigney expressed his disappointment that concerns were being raised so late in the process. “I’m a little embarrassed after six years we have some opposition,” the mayor said, adding development issues could be addressed without an area structure plan. “I find a moratorium far too strong. It sends far too strong a signal.” Rigney went on to say it was his belief plans to pave Cardiff Road and to build a new reservoir would have to be part of any such moratorium. Additionally, Rigney said there was no money in the 2012 budget to do an ASP for the Cardiff area. “I think it’s an abdication of a very important process we are charged with,” Rigney said. “I think we’ve got to find another way to do this.”
After debating the matter, a motion to table the matter until May 8 was defeated 4-3. Flynn’s original motion for a moratorium was then voted on and passed with a 4-3 vote of Council, Mayor Rigney and Councillors Kluthe and McGeachy voted in opposition to the moratorium.