State of the City 2011

Last updated: Aug. 20, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Mayor Stuart Houston photo.
Mayor Stuart Houston delivered the State of the City address at the Spruce Grove and District Chamber of Commerce meeting on January 18, 2011

Good afternoon. Thank you for coming out to hear the Spruce Grove’s State of the City address. It is my pleasure, on behalf of city council, to be able to share what we have accomplished in the past year, city council’s vision for the future of the city and the steps we are taking to make that future a reality.

There are many things that make me proud to be the mayor of Spruce Grove - whether it’s our reputation as a modern urban centre with a strong sense of community, or our attractive business climate, with a future-focused, entrepreneurial open-for-business attitude. Both of these attributes are something to be proud of, but this reputation has also provided us with some challenges we are doing our best to overcome.

One of our biggest challenges is the rate of residential growth. We are a very attractive community for young families for plenty of reasons including affordability, community amenities and the quality of life we offer - with these young families come young children who are either school age or about to reach school age shortly. 

Kindergarten to grade four is nearing capacity and soon we will be challenged at our grade five to nine levels. We are working very closely with our school division to alleviate the problem in the short-term and to implement a long-term vision for where we need to be in the next five years.

Since 2001, the population has increased by 22 per cent. Census 2010 shows the population at more than 24,000 making us one of the fastest growing communities in the region. The population growth presents us with the challenge of maintaining an excellent quality of life to our residents at an affordable rate while staying the strategic course of municipal economic sustainability. There is a financial cost associated with residential growth and we will need to focus on non-residential growth to be more sustainable.

City Council recently adopted Partnerships for Prosperity, Spruce Grove’s Economic Development Strategy 2010-2020. The strategy will focus on the economic and related fiscal components, as well as recommend opportunities we should pursue to assist with the goal of improved and enhanced financial sustainability.

It also provides a clear vision and direction as to where we want to go as a city and communicates that vision to business, industry, residents and potential investors.
City council has also adopted the formation of the Economic Development Advisory Standing Committee as per the recommendations in Partnerships for Prosperity.

The Economic Development Advisory Standing Committee will be a committee of Council and will act in an advisory role by making recommendations and providing advice to City Council and Administration regarding the implementation of Partnerships for Prosperity and the general encouragement of business and economic development in Spruce Grove.

Going forward there are many factors within our collective ability to influence and help shape. These include relative attractiveness of Spruce Grove’s business and investment climate, the physical infrastructure we invest in, municipal services and programs we provide and our ability to structure and leverage partnerships and collaborative approaches in support of economic development.

In the past year we have completed a number of projects that add to the quality of the community and had lots of opportunity to celebrate the things that make Spruce Grove so great.

In 2010, we completed two multi-million dollar road construction projects with help from the federal and provincial governments. The twinning of Century Road has improved our ability to move traffic through a well travelled section of our city more safely and efficiently while the extension of Grove Drive to the west will provide access to the new Catholic high school that is currently under construction and Grove Drive East will provide access to our new Jubilee Park and Pioneer road.

We have pushed forward with the development of Century Crossing. The $75 million retail development located along highway 16 will have plenty of new and exciting services and stores to further diversify our commercial base. They include Servus Credit Union, Shoppers Drug Mart, Starbucks, Winners, Sport Check and Save-On-Foods to name a few.

We put together the Railway Avenue local improvement levy that will open up and provide services and development of the lands just south of the tracks on Highway 16. This area development was stalled for 18 years.

We completed the South Century Area Structure Plan that will open up the opportunity for a proposed recreational vehicle campground, as well as a new off leash dog park and additional combination industrial and green space.

We also completed the ground breaking for the development of Copper Sky Lodge, a132 unit state-of-the-art daily assisted living center for seniors just north of Home Depot on Mcleod Ave.

We also assembled lands at Century Road and Highway 16. This development project will raise our city’s profile along one of Canada’s busiest highways. It will bring us the destination retail, hotel, office and residential amenities that we need to develop, and that our residents want. And it will mean more local jobs, more business and a stronger and more diverse local workforce.

More than 2,600 jobs will be created in the construction phase, which will result in more than $114 million in employment income. The value of surrounding real estate is expected to increase by nearly $190 million, resulting in an increase in the City’s tax base.

When the development is complete there could be as many as 880 jobs there and that translates into an annual payroll impact of about $37 million.

We have also called for, and have an interest in, an RFP on the lands we own adjacent to, and south of the TransAlta Tri Leisure Centre for the development of a hotel, restaurant and recreation site to complement the TLC.

With the help of community partnering more than $2 million was invested in playgrounds including a brand new one scheduled to open in 2011 in Central Park by the Japanese School

In addition to work on projects to better the community we also hosted events that allowed us to showcase what makes our community so wonderful. We hosted the CCAA Soccer Championship at Fuhr Sports Park, the NCABL All Star Game at Henry Singer Ballpark and, for the past two years, the AJHL Showcase at the TransAlta Tri Leisure Centre. The One Hockey Spring AAA event in May will see one of Canada’s largest international youth tournaments choose Spruce Grove as the centre of excellence. Events like these give us an opportunity to show thousands of people what a fantastic city Spruce Grove is.

In 2010, we also took the chance to recognize those who make our community great.

This summer we renamed a portion of Campsite Road in honour of Jennifer Heil, Olympic and World Cup Freestyle Ski Champion. We are extremely proud of her for her hard work and dedication.

We also awarded the second annual Community Spirit Award to Ms. Mina Poonja, from Subway Spruce Grove for her generous support of several local initiatives that benefit those in our community.

We presented world-renowned encaustic wax artist Lorna Kemp with Spruce Grove’s Award of Excellence.

And the City’s Chief Administrative Officer and City Manager, Douglas Lagore, was recognized at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association convention by being presented with the Dedicated Chief Administrative Officer Award for 2010.

City Council, Administration and residents are committed to long-term goals that ensure our city is here for future generations to enjoy. Right now the city is maintaining current service levels, as well as completing capital works and bringing forward new initiatives that meet the ongoing growth demands of Spruce Grove.

As the economy continues to rebound, we will be taking full advantage of opportunities to keep costs down without reducing service levels.

We’ve also managed to maintain our support for FCSS services, and arts, culture and recreation opportunities for our residents.

The City of Spruce Grove has designed a comprehensive snow clearing plan that we hope will minimize the frustration for motorists, while keeping our streets relatively clear through the winter season.

We are also committed to maintaining, improving and expanding our infrastructure to meet the demands of future growth. Council has also made a strong commitment to recreational and cultural facility enhancements over its past three-year term. We are also committed to ensuring our RCMP, enforcement and Fire/EMS services are well equipped to be major players in maintaining Spruce Grove’s reputation as a safe and healthy city.
Because our world is changing the ability to achieve environmental, economic, and social sustainability, adapt to changing circumstances, and develop partnerships will be essential to Spruce Grove’s long-term success as a community, which is why we have many exciting initiatives planned as we move forward.

In 2012, in partnership with our neighbours in Parkland County and Stony Plain we’ll be hosting the Alberta Winter Games which will bring a large number of people to our city and is another exciting opportunity for us to show our local civic pride.

We are currently constructing Jubilee Park that will be opening in 2012. The park is a 60-acre passive park located on the east end of town. It is designed for spontaneous, open space use and may also be used for large scale community events like Canada Day celebrations.

The Capital Region Board has identified us as a priority growth area, which means that we will become a destination for investment and will attract a wide demographic of workers. It also means that we’ll become a focus area for the infrastructure spending required to meet that demand.

Major initiatives going forward include support for economic development initiatives, an operational effectiveness review, development of a transportation study, the assessment of recommendations from the Mayor’s Task Force on the Environment, the continuation of the annual graffiti program and a long-term business plan for transit.

From a capital perspective, the City will focus on a 10 year strategic plan where we will invest $220 million to build new roads, recreation facilities, a new public works facility, neighbourhood parks and trails, plant trees and we will put a strong emphasis on the lifecycle maintenance of existing infrastructure, such as sidewalks, roads, facilities and parks.  Most of the capital work done in Spruce Grove is made possible by developer levies, and partnerships with the federal and provincial governments. The 2011 budget includes $3.5 million from the Government of Canada and $8.9 million from the Province of Alberta.

City council adopted a new Municipal Development Plan titled Your Bright Future. The plan sets out a vision for growth and change in the city. It is based in community sustainability and brings together economic, environmental and social elements. While the life of the plan is only until 2020 its parameters set vision for what the community could become in 2040.

Your Bright Future will be implemented over the next 10 years. A central component of the implementation strategy will be a major re-write of the Land Use Bylaw that started in the fall of 2010. The City will also develop indicators and targets to allow for on-going monitoring of the progress the City is making to achieve the community sustainability goals expressed in Your Bright Future. This progress will be reported annually to the community and Council.

The City of Spruce Grove maintains mutually beneficial relationships with other municipalities and authorities in the Alberta capital region to undertake integrated land use and transportation planning, enhance service and program delivery, and adapt to changing circumstances. We also work together with our closest neighbours, the Town of Stony Plain and Parkland County, on a variety of projects for the tri municipal region.

These strong partnerships not only enhance the quality and diversity of programs and services in Spruce Grove, but also develop the social capacity of the city. Building relationships and maintaining flexible partnerships with the Chamber of Commerce, local user groups and developers have also the added benefit of increasing Spruce Grove’s community resilience and ability to respond to change.

In addition to these strong partnerships, city council has the privilege of a hard working, dedicated staff who will always go the extra mile for us and the citizens of Spruce Grove. Each and every one of them is forward-thinking and focused on their role in making Spruce Grove the best city in Alberta.

This staff paired with a city council that works hard every day and is not afraid to step outside the box to find the best, most innovative solution to any problem gives us a cohesive team that will serve our city well as we move forward into the future.

We have plenty of existing strengths, competitive advantages and opportunity areas and now we have to reposition ourselves in response to change and uncertainty and aggressively seek out and pursue new business development opportunities. It’s this forward thinking that led to the development of the new Economic Development Strategy, which provides a clear vision and direction as to where we want to go as a city and ensures we are future focused with all the decisions we make.

As I have said before our city is about to enter a new era where we are no longer seen as an auxiliary player in the Alberta capital region, but instead as one of the leaders among Alberta’s municipalities.

As we go forward into this new era our vision for the City is that we will continue to grow as a vibrant and diverse community that offers a high quality of life is a safe sustainable environment.