Sturgeon County’s Villeneuve Airport plan grounded at EMRB

by Morinville Online Staff

Sturgeon County says it is evaluating the next steps to support investment and new jobs in the Villeneuve Airport area after the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board (EMRB) rejected its development plan.

The County says its plan supported and managed growth on the land around the Villeneuve Airport and that the plan was developed in partnership with the Edmonton Regional Airport Authority and numerous other stakeholders. 

The Municipal Government Act requires EMRB members to refer new development plans to the EMRB for evaluation of the consistency with the EMRB’s Growth Plan. 

The County says in late March, the EMRB administration recommended board members refuse the County’s application, noting it did not have the authority to recommend approval since it lacked guidance in the Growth Plan for adjusting a major employment area. 

Sturgeon says EMRB approval would have allowed the County to continue planning infrastructure and supporting new investment across several economic sectors, including aviation and aerospace, defence, research and testing, advanced manufacturing, renewable energy research, agri-innovation and logistics. 

At Thursday’s EMRB meeting, seven of the Board’s 13 member municipalities voted to approve the plan; however, the regional growth board’s voting structure requires support from nine municipalities, including Sturgeon and the City of Edmonton, for the plan to be approved. 

In a press release issued late Thursday night, the County says, “while most municipalities were in support, the City of Edmonton’s rejection resulted in defeat due to the voting structure of the EMRB.” 

Edmonton was not alone in opposing Sturgeon County’s plan for the Villeneuve Airport Area. St. Albert, Fort Saskatchewan, Leduc, Beaumont, and the Town of Stony Plain also opposed the vote.

“We are deeply disappointed that nearly five years of collaboration and cooperation with multiple partners has resulted in rejection of this plan — a plan that would support thousands of jobs and attract nearly two billion in investment for the benefit of the entire region,” said Mayor Alanna Hnatiw in Thursday night’s press release. 

“This is a significant missed opportunity to support local job creation and economic investment, and we’re saddened that current and future generations of workers will have to seek opportunities outside of our region in several key sectors.”

Hnatiw said the EMRB developed the Regional Growth Plan over a decade ago. As such, she feels it lacks the needed flexibility to address Alberta’s changing economic realities. 

“Municipal governments have the choice to encourage investment and support opportunities for the benefit of the entire region; however, the lack of support from some municipalities today indicates there is a focus on short-term self-interest and prioritization of red tape,” Hnatiw said. “These concerning actions bring into question the effectiveness of the regional Board as a mechanism to serve residents and meet its provincial mandate to manage growth, promote sound planning and drive economic development.”

Sturgeon County says it will consider its next steps carefully over the coming weeks. 

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