By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – More than a year’s work on improving economic opportunities in Morinville’s downtown core was approved by Council May 14 with a unanimous vote. Administration and Council believe the Highway 642 Functional Planning Study is the right plan, one to create a long-term plan for 100 Avenue that ensures traffic and pedestrian safety while easing the issues that have stalled development and redevelopment in Morinville’s downtown core.
The FPS deals with provincial Highway 642 (100 Avenue) from Highway 2 to East Boundary Road, a stretch of road that is under the jurisdiction of Alberta Transportation. Both the Town and province worked to find some alternative to the standard FPS for a provincial highway that requires a 10-metre setback on each side of the road to meet the province’s highway standard of 50 metres. Currently, 100 Avenue is 23 metres wide, 30 metres in width with the current right of way. The additional 10-metre right of way requirement is a situation the Town says has driven away millions of dollars in potential commercial investment in the past.
An open house held Apr. 25 provided residents and potentially affected businesses with an opportunity to view the long-term plan for 100 Avenue, one that includes a number of roundabouts at intersections, the first proposed at 100 Avenue and 107 Street sometime within the next five to seven years. The approved plan allows for several roundabouts to be installed at intersections over the next 50 to 75 years.
A variety of concerns were expressed at the open house over the idea of roundabouts, including concerns from Morinville Shell owner Cheri Meunier who expressed her and her husband Guy’s concerns on how the proposed roundabout at their intersection would impact the business. Meunier said the installation of a roundabout at her 107 Street intersection would close the northwest entrance to their gas station and cut across the canopy at the north side of the store, rendering that pump island useless.
Once approved by the province, affected business owners would enter negotiations for the purchase of lands to be acquired, as the acquisitions are needed. Although full build out on the intersection improvements identified in the Highway 642 Functional Planning Study are at some distant point down the road when Morinville’s population reaches 32,000 residents, the Town believes the work is essential now so Morinville can get past the developmental uncertainties and road blocks that have left marketable commercial land undeveloped.
Still more steps ahead
Greg Hofmann, Morinville’s Director of Planning and Development, said now that the plan is approved by Council it will need to be put into municipal law by being included in the Coeur de Morinville Area Structure Plan (ASP). The latter project looks at the entire downtown core with an eye to mixing commercial and residential opportunities. That project will be brought before the public in a final open house at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre scheduled for May 16 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. It will subsequently be brought to Council for three readings.
Hofmann said by including the FPS in the ASP, Alberta Transportation would be able to sign off on the ASP, which would further streamline development and redevelopment approvals on 100 Avenue.
“That would be the municipal process that would give this force and effect,” Hofmann told Council, adding the functional plan, which had been supported by the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce, provides the opportunity to turn economic uncertainty to certainty. “Economic development is staring right at you.”
For more information on the Highway 642 Functional Planning Study and the community’s response to the plan, visit morinvillenews.com/?p=14710.