Council approves structure plan for "new downtown" in Kings Heights
Alderman Allan Hunter concerned about another high-density community
By: Matt Durnan
| Posted: Thursday, Apr 10, 2014 11:38 am
Airdrie City council gave final readings to three bylaws that will amend land use and approve a new structure plan in Kings Heights, April 7.
The structure plan calls for an expansion of the Kingsview Market area and a vision designed by Melcor Developments that will transition the area into a new downtown-style development in the city’s southeast.
Melcor’s structure plan was reviewed by council on Dec. 19 during a regular meeting of council, when aldermen defeated the plan, citing some discrepancies with the vision for the area.
The proximity to the Home Hardware lumber yard, creating unsightly views for residents in the proposed future multi-family units was a concern for some members of council.
Representatives from Melcor Cathy O’Berg and Graham Milton came back to council on April 7 with a revised structure plan that calls for underground parking in the two multi-family building complex.
“An underground parking area would allow us to have less area on the surface taken up by parking spots and we can build a larger amenity area as a buffer between the complex and the Home Hardware lumber yard,” said Milton.
The land will be re-zoned from IB-1 (Industrial Business) to CMU (Commercial Mixed Use) and R-5 (residential).
The re-zoning did not sit well with a few members of council, including Alderman Candice Kolson.
“I’m just having a bit of an issue with this conflicting with our land use balance,” said Kolson.
“We’re trying to keep a 25 per cent non-residential land use and I don’t like to see us giving up our industrial land so quickly.”
Alderman Allan Hunter also raised some concerns around the walkability of the development that was being compared to Calgary’s Marda Loop.
“I’ve driven this area and with FortisAlberta right nearby and future business development there’s going to be a lot of industrial traffic, so I’m kind of struggling with the walkability of this area,” said Hunter.
Milton explained that there are plans for more traffic lights in the area, including some on Kingsview Boulevard to allow pedestrian traffic to cross from the east side of the road to the west without having to walk up to Yankee Valley Boulevard.
“We want people to be able to walk around in this area, traffic lights will allow for safe crossing and walkability,” said Milton.
O’Berg followed up saying having residential development in an area close by so many businesses is imperative to establish a downtown feel.
“We want to establish this as an area where people can live and work,” said O’Berg. “What drives a main street is big box companies and people.”
Mayor Peter Brown raised questions about traffic in the area, citing the congestion that already piles up at the Kingsview Boulevard and Yankee Valley Boulevard intersection at rush hours.
“I’m looking at 142 new units, so that’s about 288 more vehicles on the road in that area that is already backed up at rush hour,” said Brown.
“With only one point of exit to the highway how is this going to affect our traffic volume?”
Bob Neale of the City’s Engineering Services department explained to Brown that his team has asked Melcor for a traffic impact assessment, but in his own estimation, it shouldn’t be a major concern.
“Ultimately as Melcor develops this land, yes there is going to be more pressure on intersections,” said Neale. “There is capacity though within the Yankee Valley (Boulevard) and East Lake (Boulevard) intersection.”
Construction that will expand Yankee Valley Boulevard to a four-lane roadway east of East Lake Boulevard to Kings Heights Gate is slated to be completed this October (see story on page 1).
Hunter was the lone vote in opposition to the structure plan and land use amendments, and in the wake of the approval, he has called for serious consideration of a freeze on development until an overpass is built in the south end of the city to improve access in and out of communities.
“Airdrie is fast becoming the high-density housing community of choice,” said Hunter. “We have to be aware of the concerns of our citizens who are already voicing concerns about why it takes so long to get in and out of the city and we are getting perilously close to having to freeze development until we can get an overpass built.”
The alderman said he would like to see 40th Avenue, which is slated to be a connecting road between the communities of Windsong and Coopers Crossing into Morningside, be extended as an overpass to the east side of Highway 2.
“I’m not content with Airdrie being a clone of Calgary,” said Hunter.
“We have to get the conversation started on building an overpass.”