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Council leaning towards leaving suburban development in Edmonton to private sector

A for sale sign displays a sold home in a development on July 6, 2015. .
A for sale sign displays a sold home in a development on July 6, 2015. . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

City council’s executive committee debated a proposed land-development strategy for three remaining large parcels in the outskirts of Edmonton Monday.

Councillors did not come to an agreed-upon recommendation but, on March 3, all of city council will weigh in on selling what it has to the private sector and using the money to spruce up what is closer to the core.

It’s believed acres of green space in Aster, just off the Anthony Henday in the southeast; Goodrich Corner, adjacent to the Henday in the northwest; and Schonsee in northeast Edmonton, south of 167 Avenue between 66 and 82 streets, could fetch $85 million.

“No firm decision (was) made at this time on what way to go,” Mayor Don Iveson told reporters after the item was sent to city council with out a committee decision.

“There’s a very strong recommendation from city staff to stay in the business and a very strong recommendation from industry to get out of the suburban development business and focus on infill.”

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READ MORE: Edmonton divided on whether to keep developing in suburbia: report

The suggestion is the city could make upgrades to Rossdale and the Exhibition Lands with that $85 million.

“I think there’s some question about how we invest the money,” Councillor Michael Walters told Global News.

“There’s some debate about whether we should just create another endowment fund that we can sprinkle all over the city for years to come, or can we take the money and rapidly invest it in something that many, many citizens have wanted for a long time, which is a more compact city realized through real vibrant new districts.”

Iveson said there is a case to be made for a high-risk, high-reward investment to put the money into Rossdale and the old Northlands grounds.

“In the infill context, when you’re all said and done, the land values are higher, the densities are higher, the property tax revenue off it in the long term is higher, the transit ridership we would drive is higher.

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“So it probably aligns better with the City Plan for us to put resources in to that.”

READ MORE: Edmonton prepares for population growth in City Plan

More information is expected later this year when a new City Plan is unveiled that encourages infill developments that grow up instead of out, as Edmonton anticipates a future population of two-million residents.

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“What the new City Plan does say is we need to go faster and harder after these infill opportunities like those ones I’ve mentioned, (Rossdale, Exhbition) and if this creates cash for us to make that happen quicker, we should do so,” said Walters.

What he doesn’t want to have happe, is a proposal similar to Blatchford, where the city remains hands-on through the whole process.

“We should just use the cash that we can get from suburban land to invest in Rossdale and Exhibition Lands to make those attractive to the private sector and then let them develop it.”

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Iveson said that would mean the city sets the rules for density, the layout of the roads and dictates what types of walkable neighborhoods and parks are to look like. Then, the development industry would do the construction work.

“They don’t think it’s good business for the city — or for them — for the city to be out there competing in the suburbs. And I think there’s a case to be made for that.”