State of the City 2012

Last updated: Jul. 05, 2016 at 2:41 PM

Mayor Stuart Houston photo.
Mayor Stuart Houston delivered the State of the City address at the Spruce Grove and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon on February 14, 2012

Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for inviting me to share Spruce Grove’s annual State of the City address with all of you. On behalf of city council, I am very pleased and proud to share with you our accomplishments from last year, as well as our plans and vision for 2012.

Last year was an important milestone for us, as it marked the City of Spruce Grove’s 25th anniversary. It is exciting for me, both as the City’s mayor and as a resident who has lived in the community during that time, to see how far we’ve come in those years.

There was a time when Spruce Grove was thought of as just a bedroom community to Edmonton. I’m proud to say that perception is going through a major shift, and we are now defining our City based on other characteristics and accomplishments. These accomplishments include our commercial and industrial development, our commitment to the environment, our focus on quality recreational and leisure facilities, and the high quality of life we provide our residents.

The numbers from the 2011 Census clearly illustrate this shift and give a strong indication of the City’s future. Over the past five years, our population grew by 6,630 residents for a total of 26,171 people who call Spruce Grove home. That translates into an increase of 33.9 per cent from 2006 to 2011.

This past April, city council established a new three-year Strategic Plan for Spruce Grove. This plan serves as a foundation for the City and provides a long-term vision with goals and strategies to help maximize opportunities, manage pressures and ensure Spruce Grove is the best place to work, live and play.

The City’s Strategic Plan is built on four key themes:

  • Sustainability;
  • Economic development;
  • Partnerships; and
  • Continuing to enhance services.

These themes are an integral part of everything we do at the City as all our projects, programs and initiatives are directly linked back to one of these topics.

We are currently riding the strongest wave of development in the City’s history with more than $600 million dollars of residential and non-residential development in the last five years. To put this number in perspective, this equates to $330,000 per day, every day, for five years. During this time, the City has also invested an additional $100 million in infrastructure, which includes new arterial and collector roads, sidewalk and water main replacement, recreation, parks and trails, facility enhancements and more. All these elements work together to contribute to the quality of life we enjoy in Spruce Grove.

Our “open for business” attitude, which we share with the Chamber of Commerce, has created an extremely positive investment climate that is attracting a wide range of commercial and residential development to all corners of our community. This is not only exciting news for the vibrancy of Spruce Grove, but also very positive for the investment community.

On the west side of Spruce Grove near the TransAlta Tri Leisure Centre, we are working toward the proposed Tri-Village Commons development with its unique “village style” design concept. This proposed development will include a hotel, two restaurants, retail shops and a three-storey professional building for medical and therapeutic services, as well as general office space.

On the City’s east side, we continue to see the tremendous development of Century Crossing. This $75 million retail development located just north of Highway 16A will offer residents a wide range of services and stores, including Save-On-Foods, Shoppers Drug Mart, Winners, Michael’s, PetSmart, ATB Financial, Servus Credit Union, The Bone and Biscuit Company, Starbucks, Booster Juice and Famoso Pizza with more on the way.

On the northeast corner of the City, east of Century Road and south of the Yellowhead Highway, initial development is expected to start this year on Westwind Centre. This sprawling 100-acre development will be built out over the next 10 years and will combine major commercial and residential land use. The commercial area will be a regional destination with traffic volumes by the site on the Yellowhead Highway in excess of 35,000 vehicles per day.

We upgraded our infrastructure by completing a major expansion of the Pioneer Trunk Sanitary Sewer line construction from the Yellowhead Highway south along Pioneer Road to service the Greenbury and Westwind lands. In the future, we will look to develop a further sanitary sewer line that will extend south from Greenbury to Highway 16A to service the Melcor and Qualico residential development lands located east of Lakewood and Century Crossing.

Our expansion of the sanitary sewer under Highway 16A to our two new industrial parks, the Spruce Grove Industrial Park and the East Campsite Industrial Park, has opened up hundreds of acres of prime industrial land that sets the stage for the future. The majority of this land is either serviced or ready to be serviced when needed.

Our industrial building permit values in 2011 were higher than the combined building permit values of the previous six years. This is encouraging news, as our council, the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Advisory Committee have identified growth in this sector as a key factor in diversifying our tax base.

These new developments complement the many existing businesses and services we already have in Spruce Grove, creating hundreds of new jobs that will further add to the vitality and sustainability of the entire community.

Together, we are creating an environment where residents will no longer feel like they need to leave city limits to do their shopping or find a specific product or service. We will be able to offer it all to them and by doing so, will keep those dollars in our community, which will support and retain all our businesses. This helps create an interwoven network of community sustainability and business prosperity.

It was exciting for the City to reach a milestone this year, as we recognized Diva Lady Day Spa as the 1,500th business to be licensed within Spruce Grove. This further demonstrates the confidence that so many businesses have shown in choosing Spruce Grove as their community of choice to establish their business, as we continue to be recognized as a regional economic power centre west of Edmonton.

To continue promoting Spruce Grove as a great place to do business, we have developed and launched a new Economic and Business Development website External that will help both potential and existing businesses develop and grow in the community. This website features a range of business-related tools and research, and is an online one-stop-shop for businesses and investors looking for economic, demographic and development information on Spruce Grove.

Residential development also continued to be strong for Spruce Grove, with growth of approximately five per cent in 2011. In our housing sector, since 2006 we are currently averaging almost 520 new housing units each year. We anticipate this trend to carry on in 2012 and will continue to use a future-focused, planned approach when looking at the type and amount of development that is good for both our community and our residents.

One of the City’s biggest challenges is managing that balance between residential and commercial development within our community. We need to ensure we have growth that is manageable and sustainable so we can continue to maintain the quality and the level of programs and services that our residents have come to expect from us.

Spruce Grove is fortunate to work with a range of partners, which allows us to make decisions that benefit the City in a proactive, cost-effective and well-managed way.

We worked with the Town of Stony Plain, Parkland County and Parkland School Division to establish an RCMP School Resource Officer position who serves the region’s two public high schools. We also signed a new three-year cost share funding agreement with Parkland County for Horizon Stage and the Agrena.

We collaborated with both Stony Plain and Parkland County to help bring new, much-need aerial firefighting apparatuses to the tri-municipal region. In Spruce Grove, we welcomed our new aerial fire truck this past November.

Our Tri-Municipal Region cooperation has most recently been seen in our shared hosting of the 2012 Alberta Winter Games, which wrapped up this past weekend with thousands of visitors and volunteers converging on the Tri-Municipal Region. This was an excellent opportunity for us to showcase not only Spruce Grove, but the whole region and tell others about why it’s a great area to work and live.

We also reached out to help a municipal neighbour during a time of need. When the devastating fires ravaged the Town of Slave Lake last year, 31 City employees from Spruce Grove Fire Services and Public Works assisted the town during and following the tragedy. I’m sure I speak for all of council when I say this filled us all with a great sense of pride.

One of the reasons so many people choose to live and work in Spruce Grove is the exceptional programs and services we provide to our residents. Our snow removal, road maintenance, beautiful parks and trails, and our leading practices in waste diversion all add to our quality of life.

As a city council and administration, we feel very proud when we receive feedback on enhancements and improvements, such as our new crosswalk signage, stop sign reflectors, boulevard maintenance, tree planting, expanded green spaces, and our overall community development and cleanliness.

The City’s Strategic Plan shows a commitment to continuing to enhance these services and I’m pleased to say we did that in 2011 and we have more improvements planned for 2012.

One of the unique projects we have planned for this year is a community beautification program in a partnership with the Rotary Club of Spruce Grove that will see us spend $30,000 to plant ornamental trees throughout the City in our parks and trails and along our collector and arterial roadways. This is in addition to the 2,000 we planted around the City last year and is a great example of working with our community members to help us make a difference and bring a vision to life.

The Chamber of Commerce, The Rotary Club of Parkland After Dark and area residents also participated in a beautification program called the Arterial Roadway Fence Painting Project. With some corporate sponsorship from our good friends at McDonalds, we were able to freshen up fences along Grove Drive and we will continue this project in 2012. We accomplished this at no cost to the taxpayer, but it paid off in dividends in community spirit and pride.

Providing our residents with a wide range of recreational options has given us a reputation in our region for being forward thinking in terms of overall community development. It has allowed our community groups to develop programs of excellence for youth and adults alike that not only builds good citizens, but also creates a sense of community pride. This has always been a top priority for the City in terms of our strategic direction and goals.

Our City continues to attract hundreds of young families, which is seen in the numbers from our most recent municipal census. Our largest population groups are adults in their late 20s and 30s, as well as children under the age of four. I’m pleased to say the City has a great working relationship with the local school divisions and we will continue to work with them and the provincial government to ensure we have the schools to accommodate this growing demographic.

To further complement these young families, city council has approved a Parks and Open Space Master Plan, which provides a framework and vision to guide future parks and open space development. Last year we also opened three new playgrounds and one park.

The new Japanese School playground on King Street was developed as a natural playground and mixes elements from nature with man-made materials. In the Deer Park area, a play structure for two to five year-old children was added so that kids of all ages can now enjoy the playground. And in Aspenglen, the old play equipment was completely removed and replaced with new structures offering more unique and creative opportunities for both physical and imaginative play.

This year we are very excited to celebrate the official opening of the new and beautiful 66-acre Jubilee Park. This park is truly one of the City’s gems with paved waking and bike trails, a disc golf course, picnic areas, barbecue pits, two toboggan hills and a great playground that is universally accessible. The grand opening of Jubilee Park will coincide with the Canada Day celebrations that will be relocating there this year.

The new Century Off-Leash Park opened last year and provides dog owners with more than 8.6 acres of fenced off-leash park area and nearly one kilometre of gravel walking trails. When planning this park, we incorporated feedback from the public and created a designated area for small dogs to help ensure everyone feels safe and comfortable using the facility.

Both residents and visitors to our community who enjoy camping will soon have another option available to them. Last year council approved a unique partnership between the City and a developer that set the stage for the development of the Diamond Grove RV Campground, which will be located beside the new off-leash park. Work on the campground commenced last year and we are anticipating it will open in this year. And yes, for those residents who have asked for many years, there will be a sani-dump station.

We continue to enhance our communication with residents, which includes registering for Online Services, a portal where residents can submit service requests for issues to be addressed or reviewed by the City. In the next few months, we will be expanding our Online Services options by providing residents with the ability to sign up for e-bill notifications for their utility bills, which will also help them better track their utility consumption.

Our City’s social media presence continues to grow in popularity. We regularly use Facebook External and Twitter External to share information on topics such as upcoming council meetings, job postings and featured programs. We’ve also started to make our city council and Committee of the Whole meetings available to the public online via podcast so people can listen to them at their convenience.

This year, the City will also be going through a governance review. This review will look at the senior levels of the organization, including council, the city manager and the strategic leadership team. The review is intended to be a health check for our governance model to ensure we are making decisions, communicating with stakeholders and providing leadership based on leading practices. It also supports the City in its commitment to move from “Good to Great” and build a focused, responsive, resource conscious and results oriented organization.

We are always looking for ways we can improve the way we do things, and I’m looking forward to hearing the results and recommendations from this governance review later this year.

We also continued our commitment to having a clean and green community with the Mayor’s Task Force on the Environment. This task force identified key areas we can work on, including completing a long-term business plan for our transit service and looking for ways to further reduce our carbon footprint through alternative transportation options.

We will conduct a waste stream audit and further educate the public to improve recycling and composting rates and divert more waste from landfill. City council is also committed to keeping the community green through tree planting programs and working with developers in new neighbourhoods.

The City has recently adopted a new water conservation program called Tap into Tomorrow. This program will look at ways to reduce the City’s current water consumption by 15 per cent over the next four years. We have also passed a bylaw that requires low flow appliances to be installed in new homes, as well as any renovations that require a plumbing permit, and we continue to offer rebates on water efficient washing machines and toilets.

It’s important that our residents and visitors feel secure in Spruce Grove and we have taken additional steps to maintain our reputation for being a safe and healthy community. This year, the City will spend $10.2 million on overall protective services, which translates to almost $400 per resident. If you need them, our fire and emergency services will be at your home or business in less than five minutes 80 per cent of the time. This is something to be proud of, as not all municipalities can offer that level of service to their residents.

Through our Safe City initiative, we will continue to work with all agencies within the City, including the RCMP, Spruce Grove Fire Services, community groups and service clubs, to share tips, tools and best practices to build and grow a safe community.

I will be the first to acknowledge that as a City, we do receive criticism on one particular safety program, but I can also tell you that using automated traffic enforcement is making a difference in our community as we have seen a significant decline in serious injury collisions. This year we will be installing and utilizing automated red light and speed on green cameras at four of our most dangerous intersections and our goal is to reduce intersection collisions by an additional 20 per cent in 2012.

As I look back at last year and ahead to our plans for 2012, I am truly amazed at the many great things we have been able to accomplish as a council and as a City. I firmly believe the many successes we have achieved as a City are the result of the partnership for prosperity we have with the Chamber of Commerce and the development industry. We are fortunate to have a strong community base with residents and business owners who are willing to get involved and take an active role in the future of our City.

I also would like to acknowledge and thank the many people who work for the City of Spruce Grove. We have an excellent team of knowledgeable and dedicated staff and they are truly the ones who make the City run on a daily basis. I know they all take extreme pride in their work and the services they provide on a daily basis. Each and every staff member is committed to making Spruce Grove a great place to live.

Together with a city council that is committed to a future focused and forward thinking approach to managing the City, we have a team that is second-to-none and I have complete confidence in our ability to guide Spruce Grove into the future.

Thank you again for inviting me here today and for your many contributions to our community. Together, we all play an important role in making Spruce Grove a modern urban centre that is diverse, vibrant and a City we are all proud to call home.