Thursday, February 28, 2013

Some of us can see through the land development web and see the spiders there.

I watched a bit of television because I am depressed about the loss of the agricultural lands in the N.E. The fact is that the city has committed citizens to new developments without doing (in my opinion) appropriate financial estimates of the cost of these developments. They are developing these areas not for folks coming to Edmonton but to satisfy their developer base and really why do I think this?

I have gone to several city council meetings, I have gone to the Capital Region Board Presentation on February 14, 2013 for Parkland country, I have thought about the election contributions made by developers to the city councillors and my feeling is that these matters are all related.  I feel as a citizen that we are providing corporate welfare to build what are ghost projects similar to China.

What is the rationale for overgrowth of this sort?
Where are the figures for the populations that are expected and will these folks be transient or permanent Edmontonians?

I find it hard to believe that with the bitumen bubble crap being layered on thick that we will get a boom in Alberta. 
Also substitution of a nonexistent energy boom (energy companies are downgrading the number of projects they are doing) by a fake building boom---- means only one thing for this taxpayer.  It means that money for the Horse Hills ASP infrastructure will come out of taxpayer pockets and out of any new industrial developments that Mandel is barking after now.  The new industrial developments will again add to the urban sprawl.

Mandel and crew council speak about defending our interests against Parkland county (Mandel nixed the Acheson Area ASP that would have siphoned off industrial projects from Edmonton due to their cheaper land and tax base)  but in reality we are being screwed endlessly --first by the city itself, then by the province and finally by the federal government (I have watched three Action Plan commercials this evening that I paid for).

It is depressing to see all this sort of public purse looting but there is an end in sight.

The next municipal election is our chance to say no to urban sprawl and to indicate to the current councillors that they made bad financial decisions with reference to the Katz arena, with the loss of the prime agricultural lands in the N.E. and with the failure to curb corporate welfare.  We--the people pay--and we --the people lose.

But if citizens don't wake up and see the pirates pushing us all off the financial plank well then ---I suppose public robbery of this sort will keep on going on in Edmonton and elsewhere.

Here are the articles I base my feelings on:

Horse Hills North East ASP Decision

February 28, 2013
On Wednesday Council decided to approve 40 years of new supply of predominantly low-density residential development in the Horse Hills area in North East Edmonton. The reports and bylaw can be accessed here.
Horse Hills ASP Map. Click to enlarge.
It was inevitable. It was more than 30 years in the making. And yes, it’s fair to help landowners on all sides of the issue know what’s planned.
It’s true that land supply is becoming scarce in that quadrant of the city and though estimates vary, there are fewer than 5-10 years of existing supply. It is prudent to bring on more supply, especially given the job growth expected nearby in the Edmonton Energy and Technology Park, which will create new demand.
Meanwhile, demand is still strong for suburban low-density housing. And why not? The land is cheaper and the infrastructure and structures are new. With my 59-year-old fixer-upper house and crumbling uneven sidewalks, even I can see the appeal. And yes, many of the new and existing jobs are closer to these proposed neighbourhoods. So, no doubt, there is a market for the proposed housing.
I can’t deny that those are today’s economic realities for urban development. Given today’s realities, much of this plan makes sense. In fact, it has some really promising possibilities for integrating small-scale community food production, innovative ‘low-impact’ servicing and the potential for a proper town centre, hopefully linked with LRT.
For the first time, we did get some high level information about the costs to the City of supporting this growth (Mack Male’s offered some highlights of the report here). I think it was probably low on costs and high on the revenue forecast. Nevertheless, it showed what is the case for each of our low-density neighbourhoods, including mine, which is that we collect less in revenues than we face in costs. This isn’t particular to Edmonton – it is like this in most Alberta communities. We offset this either by subsidy from the non-residential tax base, other general revenues like the EPCOR dividend, or by delaying investments in infrastructure construction or repair.
It follows that denser communities make more efficient use of infrastructure, and therefore are more cost efficient. And we’ve made gains – these neighbourhoods are much denser than older Edmonton neighbourhoods, again, including mine. But the City is talking about adding density in my neighbourhood, which I agree with, and on the airport lands and other sites, and one of the strongest arguments is that it makes for a more efficient and affordable city.
On the food and agriculture question, while I am sympathetic in principle to the calls for preserving agricultural lands, the economics don’t support it unless you have a willing landowner, ready to forego the potential gains of development. Some advocates were calling for a large swath of land to be permanently protected; however, for the City to impose this or negotiate this would have meant compensation in the tens or hundreds of millions to landowners intent on development – so that was a non-starter. I still do think there is opportunity to look at long-term agricultural land preservation, and building a local food economy – but this should be in a regional context, where the lands are still affordable and the economics stands a chance. I encourage food security advocates to not lose heart, and to consider rallying around this as a regional issue.
But the remaining agricultural and market garden land owners who wanted to continue to operate their businesses have been significantly impeded by this plan. I had initially hoped this ASP would cerate some exciting opportunities to work with the cluster along 197 Avenue near the river to plan a neighbourhood and that integrated them. And even though there was significant public support for their protection and sustainability, the plan doesn’t protect them. At best it tolerates them. And because of the conceptual provincial road alignment, their long-term future is in doubt.
I could have supported the southern half of this (neighbourhoods 1-3), because that’s today’s housing market reality. We are only at the beginning of offering more city-wide choice in our housing market. There is work ahead to encourage a supply of more jobs in the core to support infill housing demand. And while the LRT network to support better mobility is growing, it is moving slowly.
But this is not only today’s decision; this is at least a 40-year decision (and beyond as we service and repair approved areas). Thinking ahead, I think we could have done better.
I think we could have found a way to better accommodate the cluster of remaining farmers, even perhaps around the provincial road. I don’t have the answer, but I’m not sure we tried hard enough to find one.
And I think that in less than forty years (if cost continue to rise, as distances grow, as demographics change, as traffic gets worse, and if tastes change as a result) that the communities we’re building then will be different from the ones approved yesterday – moderately denser, more efficient, more walkable, better connected to great transit, and with more mixed employment.
There is room for the plan to change and evolve over time so I have hope that as it is implemented its ambitions can rise.
4 comments… read them below or add one }
What is this proposed regional ring road? Why is it running through the city? Where might one find information about this?
Councillor Iveson,
Your comments about this development very clearly set out the priorities that needed addressing. As you say, the food producers in this scenario are the ones that lost out in this ASP. I truly hope at the stage of Neighbourhood Structure Plans, this sad oversight can be corrected. There should be reasonable accomodation for these food producers and others who want to join them. There could be a thriving food-production economy, a terrific tourist destination, and value-added retail food operations. Thank you for this overview.
Hi Don:
You state ” Some advocates were calling for a large swath of land to be permanently protected; however, for the City to impose this or negotiate this would have meant compensation in the tens or hundreds of millions to landowners intent on development”, but I am wondering why these landowners would need to be compensated. Was re-zoning already promised to these landowners or was there anything prearranged? I had thought that the owners holding out for development were simply “hoping” for the development that would eventually come.
In brief, what implicit contract or promise was there in place that would have forced compensation by the city?
Thanks for your hard work and excellent online presence/accessibility.
MacK Marshall
Councillor Iveson,
Thanks for clearing some of your views as we left Council wondering what caused you to vote “no”. Thank you for being patient in City Council.
For your readers our organization represents slightly more than 100 landowners of all sizes in the Hose Hill Community.
As one who participated in the Stakeholder Advisory Group for this ASP, there were more than enough opportunities for these ag producers to incorporate the idea of an ag zone and contiguous as you suggest. I must tell you it was 600ha ONLY. There was no option. They as you know and apparently most do not, they required some of the land owned by our members to accomplish this. It was that way during “Fresh”, only when they did not get it they came to Council with a changed tone. It was asked at almost every SAG meeting if they had made the commitment in land preservation, to commit their ag land in perpetuity through the Edmonton Area Land Trust (EALT). As you see in this ASP, it is not? They want to keep their options open. This contiguous land option would have been simple for Council to decide on, if their own members would have opted to protect their lands instead of selling much of it to the development companies. It was contiguous before selling.
Bottom line, annexation through the Province made it clear to the City of Edmonton that all the land annexed was going to be ultimately developed as “Urban” that was in 1982. These same NE producers were here then. That is when the fight was lost and ALL of us knew the consequences in the future. Some quit, retired and some persevered knowing the ultimate sacrifice was inevitable? Maybe that’s why some capitalized in and around 2000? We as a community for 32 years now have supported waiting until this land was absolutely needed to keep it for them as ag. Two past MDP’s by the City of Edmonton also said “ag is an interim use only”. This is why we feel betrayed by these people.
NEEA is not against these producers from continuing their operations, fact is we want them too but on the land they own. Not once have you or anyone heard NEEA say to pave them over. They created their non contiguous situation, they want the City to fix it. They even want you to support the highway to affect someone else and not them? Someone will be affected it just can’t be them? NEEA represents 25 members who will lose their houses, land, memories, dreams and futures when/ if this highway comes to fruition. They know and understand their situation. As long as the Province deals with them fairly…their OK with it! 25 resident landowners to 3 farmers who have 300 acres between them. We know what the Province is going to say.
We hope this gives our position some understanding that this issue has existed for some time. Residents here have seen an insurmountable change in this fine City. We were plucked from Sturgeon County with little say and became an unwanted part of the City. We for 32 years have fought to keep development out that no one else wanted and told there will be no good development that we do want? As for the highway, again no one wants it but we get it!
Thank you
NEEA Executive

Horse Hill ASP: More proof that Edmonton is addicted to sprawl

By Mack D. Male · February 23, 2013 at 5:50pm
The proposed Horse Hill Area Structure Plan (ASP) will be debated at a special public hearing on Monday and Tuesday. Known as bylaw 16353, the Horse Hill ASP outlines a development framework for the area east of the Edmonton Energy & Technology Park (EETP). It encompasses roughly 2,806 hectares of land and barely meets the density target of the Capital Region Growth Plan with a proposed density of 31 units per net residential hectare based on a proposed population of about 71,000 people. Proponents would like to see the area developed over the next 30-40 years.
Horse Hill ASP, click for a larger version
There are many people opposed to the plan, including over 2100 who have signed an online petition asking Council to “get full information about the true costs and benefits of this current plan and alternative development scenarios”. Some are concerned with the loss of agricultural land, and others are concerned with the unsustainable sprawl of our city. I expect we’ll hear a lot from those perspectives during the public hearing. I wrote about this battle last July and I would encourage you to read or re-read that post for background.
After the public hearing has completed, the bylaw will be ready for first and second reading. Third reading will take place after the Capital Region Board has given its approval of the plan. It’s important to remember where we are in the larger process:
An ASP is a relatively high-level document. It contains more detail than the Municipal Development Plan, but less than the Neighbourhood Structure Plans (NSP). The Horse Hill ASP proposes five neighbourhoods, each of which would require an NSP.
The Horse Hill ASP falls into the Northeast Urban Growth Area, one of three identified in the Municipal Development Plan. Preparation of ASPs for these areas was authorized along with the MDP, but approval was dependent on Council accepting the Growth Coordination Strategy (GCS), the Integrated Infrastructure Management Plan (IIMP), and the City-Wide Food and Agriculture Strategy. Technically all three documents were approved in 2012, but they were not received without criticism. I wrote about some of my concerns with the documents here, here, and here. Furthermore, it’s hard to swallow that the Horse Hill ASP has been developed in adherence with those plans, considering that the Growth Coordination Committee and the Annual Growth Monitoring Report do not yet exist. Both were identified as key methods by which the GCS would be implemented.
At 135 pages, the bylaw, application, and supporting documentation for the Horse Hill ASP contains lots of information (PDF, 15.8 MB). I have slowly been digesting it, and I was particularly interested in the IIMP document that was included as attachment 2c (on pages 113-135). This is the first time such a document has been prepared for Council’s consideration.
From the background section of the IIMP:
The challenges facing the City are to balance development costs with the strategic benefits of sustainable growth, to achieve an appropriate balance of residential to commercial/industrial development. Although the City of Edmonton has achieved some success in diversifying its revenue base, property tax remains the largest component of City revenue.
The IIMP estimates that roughly $2.5 billion worth of infrastructure will need to be built, with developers contributing 66% and the City contributing 34%. The GCS reminds us however that “the City assumes ownership of developer funded infrastructure, generally two years after construction, and is responsible for ongoing maintenance, periodic rehabilitation, and eventual replacement.”
To estimate revenue and expenditures, the IIMP considers two scenarios. The first uses demographic projections from 2008 and assumes that only 52% of the population is achieved within 50 years. The second uses demographic projections from 2012 and assumes that the full population is achieved within 35 years.
Here’s the revenue vs. expenditures for the first scenario:
Here’s the revenue vs. expenditures for the second scenario:
The first takeaway is that new neighbourhoods do not pay for themselves, even (and especially) in the long-run. The IIMP notes that in comparison those charts “seem to contradict the general theory that a faster build-out time would result in a better cost recovery ratio.” It goes on to attribute this paradox to “the timing of certain large capital assets.”
What follows those two charts is a discussion about the balance of residential and non-residential land throughout the city. The IIMP notes that non-residential assessment makes up approximately 25% of the total tax base of the City.
How does the proposed development affect this balance? Generally, residential neighbourhoods have less than 25% of their assessment base as non-residential, and the proposed Horse Hill Area Structure Plan is projected to have 4.3% of its assessment as non-residential. So as the City grows this and other residential areas, it must also grow its non-residential areas to maintain balanced growth.
Incredibly, the IIMP then provides updated versions of the two charts above that “illustrate the importance of balanced growth and the benefit of maintaining the current non-residential assessment ratio.” The estimated revenue is combined with “off-site commercial assessment” to paint a much rosier picture of how we can afford to build out the plan as proposed.
Here’s the updated chart for the first scenario:
And here’s the updated chart for the second scenario:
The IIMP states:
The premise in these figures is that if the City maintains its current balance of 25% non-residential assessment, by developing commercial areas throughout the City, this additional revenue helps to offset the fiscal imbalance indicated by looking at the Horse Hill ASP by itself.
So we need to continue building commercial areas like the EETP to prevent residential taxes from going up dramatically. But to support those commercial areas we need to build new residential areas like the one proposed by the Horse Hill ASP. But to pay for those new residential neighbourhoods, we need to construct still more commercial areas. It’s a vicious cycle.
In other words, we’re addicted to sprawl.
The worst part is that we know this and yet we continually fail to do anything about it. From the MDP:
The Municipal Development Plan proposes a new direction for growth and it will take time to effect change. The Plan is a long term strategy and will require incremental decisions that support our commitment to saying “yes” to the things we want and need and “no” to the things that do not advance our City Vision and goals.
So far we’ve said “yes” to eight NSPs that were supposed to wait for the GCS and other documents, “yes” to a dramatically scaled back Growth Coordination Strategy, “yes” to a Food & Agriculture Strategy that lacks teeth, and we’ll likely say “yes” to the Horse Hill ASP.
We’re addicted to sprawl and we just can’t seem to say “no”.

Related content:
  1. We all have skin in the game
  2. Why hasn’t there been any public involvement for the Growth Coordination Strategy?
  3. Translating the City’s report on the Food & Agriculture Strategy
  4. Food, agriculture and the battle over Edmonton’s future growth
My comments at the Food & Agriculture Strategy public hearing

Mandel wants Edmonton "in the industrial game"
Click here to email Brenton Driedger
Mayor Stephen Mandel says enough is enough, and suggests it's time the city stop playing 'nice guy' when it comes to developing industrial land within the city's boundaries.


I wasn't aware that Mandel ever played nice guy but there you go.

I certainly did not get this impression at the Capital Region Board meeting I went to.

Here is Parkland’s Acheson presentation and area structure plan that was perfectly compliant with the provincial government’s requirements for area structure plans but for Mandel’s desire to urban sprawl the world.

To be quite frank I now understand that citizens really are unable to effectively mount an opposition to city council's unwarranted development without clear cut financials in place---because there is a developer friendly contingency in the council and in the administration.
This will be apparent when I finally get around to doing transcripts of the hearings.

You will get an idea of how difficult it is to get the understanding of how much money this will all cost us because the city administration has not provided the financials or had provided them at the latest possible moment or in fact, may not provide them until just before the building starts.

This is not the way  I want a city to be built.
And certainly I haven't looked yet at the city auditor's report to find out how well the projects have been run (have they been on budget? What were the cost overruns?  Who gets picked to do the jobs? How is that only some companies seem to get most of the work around the city of Edmonton? Let me think of a few names I see always----Stantec, Clark Builders, PCL--why are their names so ubiquitous? And how does bidding for city jobs work?)

This will take me a long time because I have not received answers to the e-mails I have sent to the city. Despite their assurance that they have a 24 hour turnaround the fact is that they will not reply in writing --unless they want to.

We pay taxes for our civic employees and we don't even get responses to our e-mails on urban sprawl.

Way to go Mandel and crew!  Not only do we get a development that isn't required with the S.W. still empty but we get the public purse used to fund corporate welfare yet again. When will it end?  When we decide to vote for a new group of councillors who are not developers or who do not orbit around a developer.

Urban sprawl and careful use of the public purse are prime time issues for the next municipal election and these folks on city council just haven't got it yet.
There is no bitumen boom.
We don't want Chinese type ghost projects to keep folks working.
We also don't want Action Plan ads that are in reality Tory advertisements for the next election paid for by our tax dollars.

Finally we think Parkland county should be able to go ahead with its development and it is unfair to the county to prevent them from developing appropriately just to ensure that Mandel's poorly conceived urban sprawl delusion for the city of Edmonton can be partially funded by industrial developments that are constrained to Edmonton lands rather than non-available Parkland county lands.

Some of us can see through the land development web and see the spiders there.
It is just that we're flies and all the buzzing we do won't change a darn thing until the next election.

I suggest that you look  at the Parkland County Acheson Plan and do what the Mayor suggests you all do even though you live in Edmonton: call the MLA and say you are not satisfied with the way development is going on in Edmonton or Parkland County. The information for the Minister is here:

Contact Information for Honourable Doug Griffiths (PC)
MLA for Battle River-Wainwright
Doug Griffiths
Legislature Offices

Legislature Office
104 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-3744
Fax: (780) 422-9550
Constituency Offices

Constituency Office
#201, 1006 - 4 Avenue
Wainwright, AB
Canada T9W 2R3
Phone: (780) 842-6177
Fax: (780) 842-3171

If your call to your MLA is long distance, please dial 310-0000 then the area code and the phone number you would like to reach in order to receive toll free access.

Information about the Horse Hill Area Structure Plan is here:

I would look over the information in terms of financials and in terms of population density and then request that the Minister also consider the matter of agricultural land preservation.

The Minister has the discretion to request that City council go back and amend what isn't fine with citizens.

And certainly even though city councillors do not have the political will to follow the Capital Region Board's own requirements to respect the citizens' inputs and concerns---perhaps the Minister might be more interested in citizen concerns.

Information about Parkland county's problems with Edmonton is here:

Acheson Area Structure Plan

Capital Region Board Referral update - February 14, 2013

During the meeting of February 14, 2013, the Capital Region Board voted against approving the Acheson Area Structure Plan and the amendments to the Municipal Development Plan.
Click HERE to read the news release issued on this decision.
Click HERE to review the CRB Decision Letter regarding Acheson.
Click HERE to review the Parkland County presentation to the Capital Region Board.
Click HERE for information on how to contact the Honourable Doug Griffiths, Minister of Municipal Affairs, with your concerns regarding the Capital Region Board and the decision of the Acheson Area Structure Plan.

Capital Region Board Referral update

The frustration of Mayor Rod Shaigec was evident after a telephone conference call on January 15, 2013, when a single vote against the proposed new Acheson Area Structure Plan (ASP) is forcing the County to go through another level of review by the Capital Region Board.
Both the Board Administration and the third party independent consultant recommended to the CAO subcommittee that the Acheson ASP be approved. In their recommendation, they confirmed the ASP complied with all the requirements of the Capital Region Growth Plan. Despite this recommendation, the City Manager for the City of Edmonton voted against approving the plan.
Parkland County has reviewed the concerns expressed by the City of Edmonton and do not feel the concerns are sufficient for refusal by the Board. The ASP complies with the Capital Region Growth Plan, it has received Board Administration approval, and it allows for future collaboration and discussion with our stakeholders on areas of mutual concern, including Osborne Acres, the Wagner Natural Area, the City of Spruce Grove, and the City of Edmonton.

Capital Region Board Referrals

Under the Capital Region Board Regulations, Parkland County is required to submit land use planning documents, including area structure plans, to the Capital Region Board (CRB). The plans are reviewed by the Board Administration and an independent third party, who provide recommendations to the Chief Administrative Officers (CAO) Subcommittee whether to approve or not approve the document.
The CAO Subcommittee consists of the city and county managers for the regional municipalities. According to Capital Region Board procedures, the plan can be approved if there is unanimous consent at the CAO level. In the case of the Acheson ASP, the CAO for the City of Edmonton voted against the plan, forcing it to go to the Board.
Review of the Acheson Area Structure Plan
The Acheson Area Structure Plan will be before the Capital Region Board for its review on Thursday, February 14, 2013. According to the Capital Region Board Regulations, decisions requiring a vote must be supported by at least 17 representatives of the 24 municipalities that, collectively, have at least 75% of the population in the Capital Region. By virtue of population alone, should the City of Edmonton be the only vote against the Acheson ASP, the plan will be defeated.
More information on the Capital Region Board and the referral process can be found on the Board’s website at

Updated October 10, 2012

• Proposed Bylaw 32-2012 to adopt the Acheson Area Structure Plan
• Proposed Bylaw 33-2012 amendments to the Municipal Development Plan Bylaw 37-2007.
Proposed bylaws and supporting documentation can be found by clicking on the links below:
Proposed Bylaw 32-2012 (new Acheson Industrial Area Structure Plan)
Proposed Bylaw 33-2012 (amendments to Municipal Development Plan Bylaw 37-2007)

The Area Structure Plan:

  • establishes a future land concept for the Acheson area;
  • establishes policies to guide development timing in Acheson;
  • supports high quality and serviced industrial and commercial development;
  • establishes policies to minimize impacts on residential and other non-industrial areas; and, 
  • establishes policies to protect the environment, and the Wagner Natural Area.  
For more information, contact the Planning and Development Department at 780-968-8888

The letter that the Mayor got was diplomatic and said nothing about the veto power of Edmonton City Council:

REF Application 2012-019 Parkland County
Proposed Municipal Development Plan amendment
Proposed Area Structure Plan—Acheson Industrial

Thank you for your recent application submitted under the Regional Evaluation Framework (REF).

On December 3, 2012 the documentation for the above application was found to be complete.
Subsequently, and in accordance with the REF, a Capital Region Board administration report and
recommendation was issued within the required 25 working days. The recommendation by CRB
Administration to approved the subject REF application was not supported unanimously by the CAO
Subcommittee on January 15, 2013.

Pursuant to the CRB Administrative Procedures for the Regional Evaluation Framework, the
application was forwarded to the next scheduled Capital Region Board meeting for disposition. On
February 14, 2013, the proposed Acheson Industrial Area Structure Plan and amendments to the
Parkland County Municipal Development Plan were considered by the Board. We must advise you
that the subject REF application was not approved by the Board.


So the application for Acheson ASP was fine, the CRB Administration recommended it be approved but Mandel had veto powers (along with some other towns) and did the dirty on the deal.

What the heck?

Is it always a matter of unfairness wherever I look in Alberta?

Minister Griffiths needs to step in and tell the City of Edmonton that the County of Parkland has just as much right to have an ASP as Edmonton for industrial development.

What is allowable in Edmonton should also be allowable in Parkland and as one guy at the meeting said it in so many words, the success of our neighbors is our success (I still have to write up the details of this board meeting. Sigh. My whole life now is making transcripts of the waste of public money by government).