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Transportation corridor major focus of IDP public hearing

A Jan. 5 public hearing on the Inter-Municipal Development Plan (IDP) would see residents focus on a potential transportation corridor that would allow trucks and other traffic to bypass the Town of St. Paul. The Town and County of St.

A Jan. 5 public hearing on the Inter-Municipal Development Plan (IDP) would see residents focus on a potential transportation corridor that would allow trucks and other traffic to bypass the Town of St. Paul.

The Town and County of St. Paul had worked together on the plan that created a growth framework to support future planning, economic development, servicing and transportation issues.

County of St. Paul residents attending an open house on the plan last September lambasted several points in the IDP, including the size of an urban fringe area set aside for town’s future expansion and the need for area structure plans for developing within the IDP area. Following that, the County of St. Paul introduced amendments to make the plan more palatable to its residents, and the amended plan was brought forward for people to review at last week’s public hearing.

“I think we’ve addressed a lot of the concerns that were there last time,” said County CAO Sheila Kitz in an interview after the meeting, adding the new plan involved a smaller urban fringe area and relaxed the needs for area structure plans for development, subject to the discretion of the county’s planning and development office. An IDP committee, formed of town and county councillors, will review the plan periodically, and will discuss the need for any amendments that crop up. For instance, proposed development (such as a multi-lot country residential development in urban reserve area) may not comply with the guidelines of the IDP, but if county councillors see merit in the proposal, they can bring it to the IDP committee for review.

While it was a smaller and less disgruntled crowd at the St. Paul Legion Hall on Wednesday night than had shown up for the September open house, people filling the chairs in the hall still took issue with certain IDP points, specifically its proposed transportation corridor.

Chuck McNutt, planning manager with Focus Engineering, said County and Town of St. Paul councils had decided not to develop a corridor right now. “We recognize the need for it is likely coming but the decision is it’s not here yet,” he said, adding the need for a corridor would be reviewed in five years. The current IDP only identifies a potential route, running east-west along Township Road 582, with a north-south connector of Range Road 95.

County resident Leo DeMoissac felt the municipalities should not wait until 2016 to look at introducing a traffic route to bypass the Town of St. Paul. “It is being used as a corridor right now. The traffic is there and it’s going to get worse.”

However, a neighbouring resident expressed the opposite opinion, saying that the proposed corridor would pass by her land. Louise Plante said she wouldn’t mind if developments took place within road allowances, but she expressed concerns that expansion beyond the road allowance would eat into precious farmland.

“I’m not anxious to see a big corridor going down that route. To us, our farmland is very important.”

County residents also disputed the proposed route for the transportation corridor, with some saying that Range Road 95 (57 Street or Golf Drive North within town limits) was inappropriate as a connecting road, and felt that range roads further west of town would be more suitable.

McNutt stressed that the corridor would not be developed with the current IDP. The current IDP would protect the route as one future possibility, although other routes could be explored for the corridor when it was reviewed in the future.

The Town of St. Paul’s recently finished intersection at the east end of town at Highway 881 and Highway 28 cost $3 million, noted Mayor Glenn Andersen by way of comparison, with Reeve Steve Upham adding that a truck bypass route could cost “tens of millions of dollars.”

However, Andersen acknowledged DeMoissac may have a valid point in urging a review of the transportation corridor sooner rather than later. As County of St. Paul Coun. Maxine Fodness pointed out, if the federal government announces a new grant that a transportation corridor would qualify to receive, the municipalities would want to have their paperwork in order to be first in line for any funding.

However, with no other questions posed during the meeting, the public hearing was adjourned. Both councils would look to give second and third reading to bylaws to accept the amended IDP at their next council meetings.

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