Always growing: A look at future development in Airdrie
Thursday, Jun 19, 2014 10:18 am
It seems like wherever you turn in Airdrie, there’s construction happening. Whether it’s a bevy of roadwork, new traffic signals being installed, or a new school being built, Airdrie is constantly growing and changing.
With a city growing at the rate that Airdrie is – projected at seven per cent annually for the next three years – there are dozens of challenges that the City’s planning department faces to keep up with the constant influx of new residents.
Where will these people live? Where will they work? Where will they shop and dine? These are all questions that are looked at by the City of Airdrie’s planning department, who have the tall task of not only shaping what Airdrie will look like today, but moving forward over the decades to come.
On March 22, 2012, the Province approved Airdrie’s bid to annex more than 12,000 acres of land from Rocky View County. This is not the first land annexation the city has taken on, as in July 2003, the Province approved an annexation of lands from the County.
This time around, however, the City is taking a much more thought-out approach, in accordance with their sustainable growth mandate.
“In 2003, when the City acquired that land, it was all basically already spoken for and development happened almost right away,” said Jamie Dugdale, Airdrie Planning team leader.
“With this latest annexation we’re being a lot more deliberate with the planning process and we want council to be more involved in the process.”
Developers seeking to acquire and develop plots of land in the annexed area will now be required to file a justification report with the City, explaining why they want to develop an area and how it will be beneficial to Airdrie.
Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown said this will be a positive for managing growth as well as having a say in who develops where.
“Everyone who owned land in that (2012) annexed area wanted to get in and develop as quickly as possible,” said Brown.
“This justification process puts the onus on everyone to know the impacts of development, our top priorities are what is the cost and impact and how does it benefit the city.”
Within the city limits that existed before the 2012 annexation, growth is ongoing and the southwest is likely the fastest growing area, according to Dugdale.
“There’s a lot of growth and development happening in areas like South Windsong and west of Chinook Winds Park,” said Dugdale, adding that when those areas and others in the former city boundary are built out, Airdrie’s population could be anywhere between 75,000 to 80,000.
The challenge to strike a balance between residential and non-residential land use is one that Dugdale and staff are constantly working at, and he believes that they will be able to strive towards the goal of a 25:75 per cent non-residential to residential split as development trickles out into the annexed lands, especially in the northeast.
“We’re looking at keeping that area as mainly non-residential as we move farther to the north and east along the Highway 2 corridor,” said Dugdale.
“Construction should be starting very soon on the new UFA bulk fuel facility in Highland Park.”
Land has already been designated for a pair of new schools in Airdrie, one in King’s Heights and another in Cooper’s Crossing, both of which were announced by the province in the past year. The planning department is currently taking applications from developers for both sites.
Much of the development however is still slated for residential, and Dugdale says he’s starting to see a pattern of developers looking to rezone land, which should moderately reduce density.
“Several developers have rezoned sites from R-5 (multi-family) to R-4, which is more typically town house development,” said Dugdale. “That’s because a lot of these sites were zoned as R-5 originally but they’re very challenging with their density, we prefer to have those (R-5) sites closer to major transportation thoroughfares so that we’re not having heavy traffic in residential areas.”
Dugdale expects that the City will be able to maintain its density target of eight housing units per acre.
Development is not restricted to the southwest, as there are more townhomes slated for construction in Ravenswood in the city’s southeast. A plot of land south of Kingsview Market is also slotted for a multi-family housing development, and a grocery store.
On a smaller scale, there are plans in place for a new pub to be built in Sierra Springs near Mr. Mikes, and a derelict location near the Dairy Queen on Edmonton Trail is lined up to be a future location of a small strip mall.
Growth in Airdrie’s northwest is continuing as both Reunion and Williamstown expand with more residential developments, as well as the construction of a new fire hall.
Within the city’s old boundaries, there isn’t much left for developers according to Dugdale and the coming years will be spent looking at development in the annexed land.
“With this annexation, there should be land available for up to 50 years of growth, depending on growth rates,” said Dugdale. “Once the population hits 70,000, we want to make sure that we step back and do a very thorough and robust consultation process with both council and the community to ensure that we’re managing our growth responsibly.”