Council wipes mud off naming policy

by Bryan Alary
St. Albert Gazette
Dec 1, 2010

Instead of Elke’s Pond we have the Elke rule.

No one at city hall of course would label it as such, but the Elke rule was entrenched in policy last week when council, in its wisdom, decided that before renaming local landmarks after a person, it might be wise to first run the idea past that individual.

That didn’t happen last term when former councillor Carol Watamaniuk wanted to rename Riel Pond ’Elke’s Pond.’ It was a lovely gesture to honour one of St. Albert’s most passionate environmentalists, however the only drawback was the pond recently became infested with threespine stickleback ’ which the city killed off by pouring poison in the water, over the objections of people like Blodgett. It also probably didn’t help that many locals unofficially call the pond Nadeau Pond, after the well-known late birder.

Though Blodgett never publicly weighed in on the matter, after a few closed-door sessions the idea promptly fell off the map, presumably after council received a polite thanks but no thanks. The issue surfaced last week when council agreed any future name changes should be proposed behind closed doors – discussing the idea with the honouree – before going public. Chalk it up to a lesson learned with minimal pond mud on the face.

Regional pitch

The fate of two local developments could be decided tomorrow at the Capital Region Board (CRB), and it looks like St. Albert and Sturgeon County will have to do a little sweet-talkin’ politickin’ to the capital or risk being among the first casualties of regional planning.

St. Albert plans to make its case in favour of a so-called ’leapfrog’ in the north, where Triple Five developments wants to build a mixed-use development along St. Albert Trail. It’s called leapfrog because land immediately south isn’t serviced, a fact that bothers city administration, which contends the development will mean costly expansion of services like snow removal and transit while promoting urban sprawl.

Leapfrog is a non-starter for the region’s growth plan, so Mayor Nolan Crouse will have to make a convincing case to the CRB and Edmonton in particular, which previously expressed misgivings about the idea. Crouse has contended it’s not true leapfrogging in that services are being extended east-west not north-south. With little action in the north, council sees the benefit from increased property tax revenue from a development that otherwise could take years to happen.

The future of the development could rest in the capital, which enjoys significant sway in the CRB’s voting structure. St. Albert could point out leapfrogging isn’t new in the region ’ indeed homes are popping up around Big Lake, orphaned from other Edmonton neighbourhoods. Of course, Edmonton approved those plans before the CRB and its growth plan even existed.

Sturgeon County also has a pitch to make to St. Albert and Edmonton, which in the past have opposed the Quail Ridge acreage subdivision in Sturgeon Valley. Neither seems keen on seeing acreage development expand on the municipal fringe. Sturgeon could have a fight on its hands given Quail Ridge, a 90-lot subdivision, isn’t dense enough according to the region plan.

Two very different developments, two potential areas for regional strife.

Spruced up parks

It’s gratifying to see St. Albert’s parks system spruced up with the addition of the white spruce forest. A land transfer between the city and Genstar means the roughly 170-ish-year-old tree stand will not be threatened by urbanization, a move that’s been in the works for years and underscores St. Albert’s commitment to cultivating green spaces (when will that pun get old?).

For a city that’s taken its share of environmental lumps with issues like the Riel landfill and threespine stickleback, the forest is a welcome addition to St. Albert’s already impressive parks and natural areas. If it took five years to cross the forest transfer from city hall’s to-do list, does that mean the long talked about tree bylaw could be resurrected?

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Elke Blodgett