State of the City 2014

Mayor Stuart HoustonGood evening everyone, and thank you for inviting me here tonight to share my annual State of the City address. As we begin a new year with a new council, I’m looking forward to sharing what we accomplished last year, as well as a look ahead to what’s on the agenda for our community in 2014. I can tell you right now it’s going to be a busy year for the City, but it’s also exciting to see the many projects and initiatives that we have planned for Spruce Grove.

Our current council was just elected this past October and while there are several familiar faces, including my own, I can tell you that we are feeling energized and excited about this current four-year term as we focus on making Spruce Grove a great place to live, work and play.

And the reality is that more and more people are choosing to call Spruce Grove home. Based on numbers from last year, we have an estimated population of 29,960 and we anticipate surpassing the 31,000 mark this year, which is up significantly from the 2011 federal census figure of 26,171. Historically, we have seen a five to six per cent population increase each year, making us one of the fastest growing communities in Alberta. Based on this population growth and an average age of 34, we are a very attractive community for young families.

That population growth is accompanied by additional development in residential, commercial and industrial sectors and last year was no exception. We had a record breaking year with $194 million in total building permit values for 2013, which far surpasses the previous record of $169 million in 2007.

That equates to more than $775,000 in development permit investments every business day in Spruce Grove! We also passed an impressive milestone last year, in that our combined residential and non-residential building permits since 2006 passed the $1.14 billion mark.

On the residential side, we had a total building permit value of $146 million, which is our second highest residential building permit value to date. According to research by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, Spruce Grove was second only to Edmonton in the Capital Region in single and multi-family housing starts in 2013.

Approximately two-thirds of the homes in Spruce Grove are single detached houses. However, semi-detached homes, apartment units and townhomes are becoming increasingly popular, making up 9.5 per cent of our housing inventory. Last year was a record-breaking year for townhouse development with 132 units constructed, specifically popular with young, first-time home buyers. The total building permit value of multi-family housing was $29 million, which is approximately 20 per cent of the City’s total residential building permit value for 2013. Many of our multi-family developments are built near or adjacent to commercial developments providing an opportunity for people to work close to home.

An ongoing priority for the City is to work with developers to provide this range of housing options. In fact, many of our fastest growing neighbourhoods feature a mix of housing styles in one cohesive neighbourhood. This includes Greenbury, McLaughlin, Spruce Ridge, Linkside and Hilldowns. Both Harvest Ridge and Jesperdale are also growing quickly.

Two new neighbourhoods that we’re excited to welcome to Spruce Grove are Kenton and Prescott on the City’s northeast corner. They are adjacent to WestWind Centre, which is a new 40-acre mixed use commercial and residential development that will be visible from the Yellowhead Highway. Residential construction is already underway in these neighbourhoods and the services and infrastructure are being put in place to support commercial development later this year with initial tenants anticipated in 2015.

Commercial development continues in the other corners of Spruce Grove as well. Our “open for business” attitude, which we share with the Chamber of Commerce External, is attracting a wide range of businesses to Spruce Grove, which, in turn, is providing more options to our residents.

The $75 million Century Crossing development on the City’s southeast end continues to expand at an impressive pace. Last year we welcomed more businesses to what is currently the largest recent retail area in Spruce Grove, including Mucho Burrito, Cobs Bread, The Chopped Leaf, Michael’s, ATB Financial and State & Main. This year we are looking forward to the opening of Peavey Mart, Carl’s Jr., Opa Souvlaki, Coop Gas Bar and Mattress Mattress.

We also welcomed the opening of the new Diamond Grove RV Campground External on the southeast side. Last year the park, which provides fully serviced stalls and a sani-dump facility, opened 90 of its 200-plus sites and we look forward to the balance of those stalls opening this year.

Just down the road from there on Century Road is the new South Century Driving Range External. With an on-site golf professional, this dedicated driving range is a welcome addition for local golfers who are looking for a convenient location to work on their game or relax by hitting a bucket of balls.

On the other side of Spruce Grove, construction is well underway at the new 130-room Holiday Inn Express & Suites in the Tri Leisure Village development. This $50 million development will eventually include restaurants, shops and a professional building. It will also be home to a new $10.4 million City-owned sports and recreation facility, which will include a sports museum, multi-purpose flex space, non-profit office and program space, and lease space to the Aerials Gymnastics.

The Westgrove Common area has grown with the official opening of the Nelson Centre complex. New businesses in the area include a new car wash, Menchie’s, Red Chili Leaf, AMEC and Planet Beach and we are anticipating additional development in the area this year.

Our industrial parks continue to draw interest from investors and businesses and last year we had a record breaking $10.7 million in industrial permit and improvement values in Spruce Grove. We are working on developing and implementing an Industrial Marketing Strategy to help attract more industrial development to Spruce Grove and we have completed our Economic Development promotional profile series, which focus on commercial, industrial and community, to highlight the many benefits of doing business in Spruce Grove.

Companies who have finished or relocated to new buildings in the Spruce Grove Industrial Park and the Campsite Business Park include Compass Compression and Precise Crossings. Midwest Pipelines has acquired over 11 acres to build a facility this year and Italian company Primetech Shredding Equipment Ltd. is currently building a facility beside Compass Compression, which will be their Canadian parts, sales and distribution centre.

There was also the ground breaking for the new Premier Garage Condos site, which is expected to open this year, as is a new office building and shop for Thompson Brothers Construction.

We had 1,114 building permits in Spruce Grove last year, which is the highest in the City’s history and certainly indicates that we will continue to have strong growth and development in 2014.

To ensure we continue to have high quality development amidst the highest permitting levels in Spruce Grove history, the City has hired a safety codes supervisor who will be inspecting construction across the community to enforce regulations and make sure developments comply with necessary permits.

We also want to focus on our city centre this year by investigating ways we can revitalize this part of our community. We will be developing a vision and plan for city centre redevelopment and I anticipate working closely with many of you to hear your ideas and insights about how we can reinvigorate this part of Spruce Grove.

We want to make Spruce Grove a business-friendly community and part of that is making it as simple as possible for businesses to operate in our city. We recently streamlined the City’s business licence renewal process by giving resident businesses the ability to renew their licence online. Along with this, resident businesses will no longer be charged an annual business licence fee, as long as renewals are completed by the required date. This is just one of the ways we aim to create efficiencies for both the City and our clients that create a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Speaking of business licences, we just reached an impressive milestone when we recently issued our 1,700th business licence to Brilliant Goldsmiths in Westland Market Mall. We celebrated our 1,500th business licence near the end of 2011, so we have welcomed 200 more businesses to Spruce Grove in two years!

And more than 400 of those business licences have been issued to home-based businesses in our community, which means approximately one in six households in Spruce Grove is involved in a business venture. These home-based businesses speak to the health of our business community, showing diversity and an entrepreneurial spirit. In many cases, home-based businesses eventually evolve into storefront operations.

The growth in our residential and commercial development harmoniously work together to create a community where people can live, work and do business without leaving city limits. We are meeting the demands of our residents and keeping their dollars in Spruce Grove, which boosts our economy and contributes to a sustainable, vibrant and prosperous business community.

Of course, with additional growth comes additional pressure to continue providing quality services to our residents. This is one of our biggest challenges, but we know part of the reason many people choose to live in Spruce Grove is the high quality of life and excellent programs and services they have come to expect from us.

Programs like our popular Canada Day Celebration, which is now being held at the beautiful Jubilee Park, and the Christmas in Central Park light-up event that is an annual tradition for many local families. The Halloween Mini Monster Bash event is a fantastic example of tri-municipal cooperation with both the Town of Stony Plain and Parkland County and last year we were excited to announce a partnership with the Edmonton Eskimos that will see the football club host their 2015 training camp in Spruce Grove.

Last year during our Canada Day Celebration, we were honoured to recognize Gail McGinnis through the City’s Awards of Excellence Program. Nominations for 2014 are now open, and I would encourage you to submit an application if you know anyone who meets the award criteria.

To further recognize deserving groups or individuals in our city, we will be developing a policy for a community and memorial recognition program this year. In addition, we will be collaboratively working with the Town of Stony Plain, Parkland County and the TransAlta Tri Leisure Centre to develop and implement an event hosting strategy to see what opportunities are available to attract more events to the tri-municipal region, giving us a perfect opportunity showcase what Spruce Grove has to offer.

And the list of things we have to offer in Spruce Grove continues to add to the quality of life for all our citizens.

I was extremely glad last year to welcome the announcement by the province of a new 900-student kindergarten to Grade 9 school that will be constructed on the City’s east side in the Prescott neighbourhood. With our growing population – and many new families moving to our community – this is a much needed addition to our city. We sincerely thank the diligent work of the Parkland School Division and the Province of Alberta for recognizing this emergent need in our community.

It’s also important to provide residents of all ages with opportunities to enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle. Last year we added several new playground structures throughout the city, with more planned for this year, and we will be modernizing the Brookwood rink and making improvements to the Skate Park. We also added new asphalt trail along sections of Calahoo and Century Road to make the areas more pedestrian-friendly and there are plans to update our Jubilee Park Master Plan to develop a long-term vision for this outdoor space.

The lighting system at the Grant Fuhr Area was replaced last year and the construction of a new recreational Midget ball diamond at St. Peter the Apostle High School is on the books. We are also contributing to the development of a new day use park in Parkland County.

On the cultural side, Horizon Stage continues to offer a range of performances that appeal to people of all ages and musical tastes. This world-class performing arts centre, which we share and partner with our friends from Parkland School Division and Parkland County, is truly a gem in our community and now it’s easier than ever to find out what happening with the recent launch of the new Horizon Stage website External. We will also be commissioning an Arts and Culture Master Plan this year to further support our diverse and vibrant arts scene.

An event from last year that was of extreme importance to me was the naming ceremony for the Cpl. Jim Galloway Memorial Off Leash Area. Cpl. Galloway made the ultimate sacrifice when he died in the line of duty during an armed standoff in Spruce Grove. Due to his work as a dog handler, we thought it would be a fitting tribute to name our newest off-leash park in his honour. Already a beautiful place to take your dog for a visit, we will be enhancing this off leash park with additional lighting.

On the City’s capital side, work is expected to wrap up this fall on our new $18.6 million Public Works Facility, which will accommodate an estimated 25 years of growth in Spruce Grove. The facility will meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver standards and incorporate many “green” features, including a solar hot water system and low flow plumbing fixtures.

Of course, the facility will also allow our staff to continue providing the quality level of service that we are proud to provide in Spruce Grove. We take a proactive approach to maintaining the City’s infrastructure and that will continue in 2014 with upgrades to the downtown storm sewer system, various asphalt overlay projects and upgrading the road access to the TransAlta Tri Leisure Centre.

We will also conclude work on the improvements to the Century Road and Highway 16 overpass, which complement the work that was finished last year to enhance the intersection at Century Road and Grove Drive.

Another exciting initiative will see the City embark on a $2.5 million upgrade to the Highway 16A corridor. This upgrade will include new planting beds along the highway and enhance our city’s image as a modern, urban centre. We will also be extending Grove Drive east to Pioneer Road and eventually we are looking to bring the sanitary trunk sewer from that area to Highway 16A.

Garbage and recycling collection is not only an important service we provide, but when used effectively, it also helps make our community more environmentally friendly. We have a target of diverting 50 per cent of City waste from landfills by 2016, but we know we have some work to do as a recent waste audit showed that 76 per cent of household waste currently being sent to landfill can be diverted.

To help us reach that goal, we have launched the new Trim Your Trash online tool where residents can go to see if a waste item goes in their garbage bin, organics bin or blue bag.

We were proud to have our Eco Centre recognized last year with a 2013 Collection Site Award of Excellence by the Alberta Recycling Management Authority. We know the facility is well used and this year we will be developing a plan for the evolution of the Eco Centre to ensure it continues meeting the needs of our residents. We will also be completing a feasibility study for a local organics processing facility.

We continue to enhance the safety and security of Spruce Grove with the addition of a new full-time RCMP member and we work within our region on the planning and design of a new integrated RCMP facility. This year we will also be establishing a 24/7 dispatch call answer centre for Enforcement Services and, a new collaboration initiative with the City of St. Albert will see us complete the second phase of enhancing the fire training centre in Spruce Grove.

Our Safe City initiative will carry on with supporting community programs and events, including the Block Party program, Mini Monster Bash event and candy cane check stops, which all help make our community a safer, healthier place to live.

We also wanted to check in with our residents, so we conducted a satisfaction survey last year and were pleased to learn that 88 per cent of our residents are somewhat or very satisfied with our programs, services and facilities and 94 per cent would recommend Spruce Grove as a place to live.

We also know from the same survey that approximately two-thirds of our residents are somewhat or very satisfied with how we communicate with them. Last year we introduced two new mechanisms to share City news with our residents. The first is a formal annual report publication, which was sent out to all residents in June and we’ll be doing something similar this year.

The second is our new CityPulse magazine, which arrived in mailboxes during the holiday season. This magazine is your “one stop shop” for information on City of Spruce Grove programs, services and events. The next issue will be our spring/summer edition, so be sure to watch for it!

We certainly have a full plate for 2014, but I know that both council and City staff are excited about what we have planned for Spruce Grove, as well as what we accomplished last year. We are also fortunate to have residents, regional partners, school divisions, community groups and the business and development community, who play a huge role in our ongoing success. It’s truly a collaborative effort that makes Spruce Grove a place we are all proud to call home.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank and acknowledge the staff at the City of Spruce Grove for their dedication, determination and expertise. I’d also like to thank my fellow council members for their ongoing commitment and passion for this community. Together we have a future-focused and forward-thinking approach to managing the City and I know we will accomplish many exciting things as we help Spruce Grove reach its full potential.

Again, thank you for your time this evening and for the many contributions each of you make to our community. Spruce Grove is a dynamic, vibrant, growing city with an extremely bright future, I look forward to taking that journey with all of you to add to the great quality of life we all enjoy.

Mayor Stuart Houston