News / Edmonton

New regional board will put pressure to stop sprawl: Mayor

The Capital Region Board is now the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board

Mayor Don Iveson said the newly-branded Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board will help the 13 members plan for projects such as interconnected transit.

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Mayor Don Iveson said the newly-branded Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board will help the 13 members plan for projects such as interconnected transit.

A newly-branded regional board where municipalities will meet to plan growth will help limit urban sprawl and save farmland, Mayor Don Iveson said.

It also signals a shift in Edmonton’s identity, the mayor said.

The Capital Region Board has been rebranded the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board and has shrunk from 24 members to only 13.

In addition to the name change, the new board introduces higher density targets for Edmonton and its neighbours for residential development, and the board is now tasked with creating a regional metro servicing plan for projects such as transit, fire services and storm water control.

Iveson said the rebranding effort is a symbolic change, but an important one.

“No one ever actually ever used the name (Capital Region Board),” he said. “It was a political construct, frankly, at a time when people at the province and in the region didn’t want to talk about Edmonton … We’ve overcome that over the last several years.

“There’s a higher level of civic pride among Edmontonians.”

But it’s more than just a name change. The new board introduces higher and minimum density targets for the member municipalities.

For example, while St. Albert was previously required to meet 35 dwelling units per net residential hectare (du/NRha), they’re now sitting at 40.

Leduc previously had a range between 25-30 du/NRha, but now has a minimum target of 35. Edmonton has gone up from 35 to 45. In many cases, the city is already meeting or exceeding those targets, Iveson said.

“It’s not even that much of a stretch for us … I frankly pushed for it to be higher for both us and our neighbours,”” Iveson said.

If the municipalities comply, it puts the region on the path towards saving 250 quarter sections of land and avoiding $5 billion in unnecessary infrastructure costs, he added.

“It means we’ll consume less land and save more farmland ... I think we’re uncapping the opportunity for higher densities around the region while ensuring there’s a floor of density expectations that does reduce sprawl,” Iveson said.

The new chair of the board is Jodi Abbott, president and CEO of NorQuest College and Chair of Edmonton’s Health City, an initiative to make the city a world leader in health care innovation.

She said she’s excited to work with all the new faces at the table.

“I think it will be interesting with eight new mayors and a new chair,” Abbott said. “Certainly one of the things that interested me about the board is we have the opportunity to come to a higher order conversation on what we can do together as we support the growth of the region.”

“Being able to bring their expertise to that table I think will be wonderful.”

Iveson said the smaller board that limits its members to municipalities with a population of 5,000 people or more makes sense. He says while regional cooperation was always important, it’s even more critical now with the fiscal challenges facing the province and city.

“What’s changed within the last three years in particular is that the world is a much more fiercely competitive place,” he said. “When oil was expensive, we didn’t have to work that hard. But we now have to compete with the whole world for investment, for talent, for tourism. And we need to do that in unified way.”

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