Back to a Bright Future
Town of Stony Plain poised for return to boom years
It’s beginning to look a lot like 2005 in Stony Plain.
Population is steadily increasing. Applications for building permits are on the rise. And an overall feeling of progress and vitality is tangible in the 100-plus-year-old central Alberta town.
But where the last such advance left chaos, the 2014 version has a decidedly different feel.
In fact, according to Jean Porteous, Stony Plain’s director of planning and infrastructure, it’s the lessons learned from past rises that will stave off a repeat of the problems that can follow.
“Everybody thinks that we’re on the precipice of another boom,” she said. “You talk to the land development industry, and they’re just going like gangbusters this year. That obviously translates to us as well. My permit numbers now are at 2005 and 2006 levels, which was the start of the previous boom in 2006, 2007 and 2008. We’re approaching those kinds of numbers now.
“When things slowed down (last time), it gave everybody the opportunity to catch up, to look at systems, to look at perhaps some areas in our own instance where we could refine the process. Approaching this boom, we’re quite prepared for it. Much more than last time. We’re all very excited by it, and we have processes now to cope with an impending boom.”
Porteous and her staff are maintaining a record-setting pace these days as they manage the transformation in the town, whose population jumped 28.5 percent between 2001 and 2006, then skipped up another 21.7 percent between 2006 and the last official census count in 2011.
Subdivisions are springing up in areas that until recently had no houses – fueled partially by a flow of Edmonton-centric professionals looking for a better life in non-work hours – and the continued expansion of the town’s economic options is drawing businesses that will add jobs as well.
“You go out and you see the demand that’s there for growth on the west side of Edmonton,” Porteous said. “You can see the change that’s happening in a small community.”
Of course, with added people comes added strain on the town’s infrastructure.
Stony Plain is comprised of retirees from the farming industry, those who are employed at various places in the town and its immediate surroundings – including a local detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the WestView Health Centre, the Acheson Industrial Park and the Capital Power and the Trans Alta Genesee Generating Station – as well as those who make the daily 40-minute ride into the city.
Thirty-nine permits for new residential construction, with a total value of $8.67 million, were issued by the town between Jan. 1 and March 31, while four commercial/industrial/institutional permits were also issued with a composite value of $5 million. Both are a jump over the initial quarter of 2013, a year that ultimately ended with 174 residential permits and 13 commercial/industrial/institutional.
Porteous oversees all that is linked to the Stony Plain’s development and maintenance, from urban planning, permits and approvals for construction and land development to capital works and maintenance of existing infrastructure, facilities, properties/buildings, fleet and public land.
“We’ve done a really good job at looking after what we have,” she said.
Several significant projects are on the updated agenda for the town, including a $2.467 million upgrade to South Park Drive – one of the roads that’s seen a substantial increase in traffic. The work will yield installation of a center median, joint-accesses between existing developments, a sidewalk along the east side of the roadway and traffic signals at North Park Drive and Boulder Boulevard.
New traffic signals at three intersections are also planned – Brightbank Avenue and Golf Course Road, Highway 779 and Wood Avenue and 79 Avenue and High Park Road/Westerra Drive – at a cost $975,000.
Work is scheduled to be completed by the end of the 2014 construction season, in September.
An additional $1.1 million in renovations are slated for the Glenn Hall Centennial Arena, including a new roof and an exterior upgrade intended to boost energy efficiency.
Also planned for 2014 are $692,000 worth of work at the Stony Plain Golf Course, entailing storm water drainage, new mowing units and protective netting for the driving range; and a $1 million facelift at one of the town’s signature amenities, the Stony Plain Outdoor Pool, which will get new changing rooms for use by pool-goers and visitors to the nearby Rotary Spray Park.
Pool buildings will also be adorned with Asian art, thanks to the town’s continuing relationship with Shikaoi, Japan – a result of the Japan-Alberta Twinning Program. Funding for the pool work includes a $250,000 grant from the federal government.
“The town has avoided the trend to close the outdoor pool, and this is certainly emphasized by the money that’s being spent today to enhance and improve that outdoor facility,” said Peter Burben, the town’s manager of engineering. “It’s got a heck of a reputation. My kids grew up going up to that pool in summer, and there’s no better place to spend a nice, sunny Sunday afternoon.”
The emphasis on maintaining also connects to Stony Plain’s recent history of progressive thinking on sustainability and livability issues, something it was out in front of several years ago when it declared that sustainability would be a guiding principle of every planning and infrastructure project.
It’s also manifested by the development and upkeep of the trail system and its connection to the local parks system.Not to mention a commitment to recycling and organic waste collection – the Wipe Out Waste program – that was recognized nationally when Stony Plain won an environmental award from the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators.
“The municipal staff here, as well as council, have been very supportive of environmental awareness,” Porteous said. “We were a little bit ahead of some of the other municipalities in the area. We’ve been very aggressive. It is something that we are proud of.”
And there’s no plan to stop the approach that’s brought them back to the doorstep of success.
“What was, 10 years ago, perhaps a very sleepy little town is now growing into quite a sophisticated metropolis,” Porteous said.
“The council has a lot of emphasis in their planning on culture and livability, so I think that will just continue. Stony Plain has escaped the glance of a lot of people, and I think it’s now starting to become more of an urban center and there’s going to be a lot of new exciting development.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Town of Stony Plain
WHAT:Municipality of 15,051 residents, according to 2011 census – part of the Edmonton Capital Region
WHERE: Central Alberta, immediately west of Spruce Grove and 40 kilometers west of Edmonton