State of the City

Spruce Grove Mayor Stuart Houston

Delivered March 9, 2017

Good evening everyone and thank you for joining me to hear my annual State of the City address. On behalf of my colleagues on City Council, it’s truly my pleasure to be here to highlight our accomplishments from last year, as well as share some of the plans and initiatives on the horizon.

As a municipality, we spend a great deal of time managing the day-to-day tasks of running a city, but we have always made a conscious effort to plan for tomorrow. This pro-active approach has allowed us to realize great success and, in today’s current economy, I believe setting our sights on the future is more important than ever before.

A cooling economy can present challenges, but it’s also much easier to navigate when you have a solid foundation with long-term plans in place to help ensure ongoing investment, development and growth in your community.

In fact, when you look at the overall Capital Region, Spruce Grove has fared very well. According to Brad Ferguson from the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, we continue to outperform many of our neighbouring municipalities in economic development, demonstrating that we are still attracting new residents and business to our city.

Not only that, but last year Alberta Venture magazine highlighted Spruce Grove as one of Alberta's best communities for business and online Canadian business magazine Profit Guide included us in their list of the top 25 places in the country to do business. Profit Guide also identified us as the third most lucrative market across Canada for business owners.

According to last year’s municipal census, we grew by five per cent in 2016, bringing our official population count to 33,640 people. This increase is consistent for Spruce Grove, which has had an average growth rate of 5.1 per cent each year since 2011, and at that rate we expect to welcome our 35,000th resident in the spring of 2017.

The neighbourhoods with the largest population growth were three of our newest – Kenton, Greenbury and Prescott on the city’s northeast side – which indicates that people are not only relocating here, but they are also buying new homes.

Numbers from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation show we had 380 overall housing starts last year. In the Capital Region, outside of Edmonton, we were the second highest in single detached starts at 156 and highest in both semi-detached and row house starts at 146 and 78 respectively.

The building permit value for single detached residential structures was $47 million last year, while semi-detached residential structures came in at $33 million.

On the commercial side, this was the sixth year in a row we surpassed $10 million in building permit value, coming in a $10.6 million in 2016. The value of our industrial development permits also remains high, with an average of approximately $500,000 per permit, indicating we are seeing high quality structures going up in the city.

Overall, we issued 812 building permits with a value of $114 million, 783 development permits and 2,878 safety code permits in 2016, which shows ongoing construction in the community that I fully anticipate will continue this year.

Our major municipal infrastructure, institutional and private construction figures for 2016, combined with construction projects that are planned for 2017, mean a whopping $165.5 million in development! I will highlight a number of these projects that are not only building our future, but also creating significant employment opportunities in our community that add to our economic sustainability.

Work continues on the new $25 million integrated RCMP facility. This co-location of municipal policing services for Spruce Grove and Stony Plain, as well as other provincial policing resources, will not only result in more efficient service to our regional residents, but also allow us to realize construction and maintenance cost savings.

Adjacent to this development, we lived up to our partnership commitment by widening the intersection of Jennifer Heil Way and Highway 16A, which has improved traffic flow in the area and will provide quick and easy access to the new RCMP facility. It’s interesting to note that we anticipated this project would cost $4 million, but because of the shift in the economy, we were actually able to complete this work for $2 million, which is a significant savings for the City.

Furthermore, we will be renovating and expanding the City’s existing Protective Services building in a phased approach that will include an expansion on land east of the current facility, providing room for new administrative offices, equipment bays, dorms and training space. Work on the estimated $21 million project will begin this year, starting with site work and servicing. Construction on the expansion, which will add another 3,300 square metres of space to the building, will get underway next spring.

Last year we welcomed the new $22 million Prescott Learning Centre to the city’s east side and this year, I know many families are anxiously awaiting the still-to-be-named $22 million K-9 school that will be constructed on our west side in the new Copperhaven neighbourhood, which will also be home to a new bus transfer facility.

The Prescott Learning Centre will be enhanced this year with the addition of the adjacent $3.5 million Beaverbrook Wellness Centre, which will provide child care and support services to local families through the YMCA Beaverbrook Child Care Centre. This facility demonstrates a successful and collaborative partnership between the City, the Province of Alberta, Parkland School Division, Beaverbrook and the YMCA of Northern Alberta that will have a positive impact in our community.

On the other end of the spectrum, we certainly understand the importance of helping our residents have supportive options to help them age in place in our community. I’m pleased to say we have a few proposals coming forward for assisted living facilities in Spruce Grove and I’m hopeful we will be able to move ahead with them this year, as this addresses a gap in the accommodations currently available in the city. For those of you in the development industry, we have more than 4,500 residents over the age of 65 in Spruce Grove, which is creating a huge demand for independent and assisted living options, as well as long-term care.

We also had our first post-secondary campus open in Spruce Grove last year. NAIT’s new $17 million Spruce Grove Campus is now home to the school’s popular crane and hoisting equipment operator program. The doors to this 133-acre campus opened in September and I look forward to further developing our partnership with NAIT for potential expansion down the road.

The City’s new Border Paving Athletic Centre opened to the public last year, providing not only a new space for City’s Recreation Services department, but also offering space to non-profit and community groups to gather, collaborate and learn. With rental and lease opportunities, computer and Internet access for the public and groups, and extended operating hours, it’s an ideal spot to host a meeting, have a workshop or just connect with friends. Plus, it is home to the Aerials Gymnastics Club, who run their programs, playschool and administrative office in the centre.

Located near the Border Paving Athletic Centre in the Tri Leisure Village development is a new $16 million medical building that is also scheduled to open this year. This will be the final component of this $75 million development that has brought a hotel, new restaurants and businesses to the area.

This spring we will be completing an update to the City’s Economic Development Strategy to identify our priorities and initiatives for the next five years. This is a key component in attracting new and exciting developments and driving investment interest to our community. We will also be completing an assessment of our broadband requirements as an urban centre, as we realize this is a critical requirement to both businesses and residents, and is necessary to remain competitive.

A big factor in our Economic Development Strategy is event tourism where the sky is the limit! As a tri-municipal region we are poised to take advantage of Alberta’s 4.5 billion tourism industry. During the last week of February alone, we had the 40th annual Sweetheart Ringette Tournament, the Spruce Moose Gymnastics Tournament and the Winter Fest Street Hockey Tournament bring more than 1,500 athletic participants to our region. Add in their parents and other family members, and an estimated 4,500 visitors came to our region in just one week for events that were all run by our grassroots organizations. Wow! This has an incredibly positive impact on our facility rentals and also supports our hospitality industry.

Commercial construction has also started at the Westwind Centre. Two office buildings are already under construction, with secured tenants ready to take occupancy, and as this area develops, it will include grocery, gas, and other retail and service options for both residents and visitors to our community. Westwind Centre has the potential to become the largest commercial development in the history of Spruce Grove and we anticipate it will drive important new investment into our community.

I am extremely pleased with the work the Spruce Grove City Centre Business Association has been doing to reinvigorate, develop and grow this important part of our city. Last summer the association had great success in drawing people to the city centre with events including the Taste of Spruce Grove, Cruise Nights and monthly public markets. Most recently, the Winter Fest event brought residents together for a fun day that included a hockey tournament, ugly toque contest, wagon rides and food venues, attracting an estimated 1,200 people to our city centre.

Through events like this, we are drawing residents to the city centre and reminding them of the many great shops, restaurants and amenities in this part of the community. To assist in this ongoing initiative, the City has committed funding to prepare an area redevelopment plan for the city centre and there will be opportunities for our residents and the business community to participate in that process.

Part of being a great community is providing your residents with a range of amenities they can use and enjoy. I’m very excited that this year we will be opening the City’s new spray park in Jubilee Park. Residents have been asking for a spray park for years, and I am confident that what we have planned will exceed their expectations! At 1,100 square metres in size, it will be a multi-use, multi-age, multi-activity space for people of all ages to play, enjoy and connect with nature.

This new spray park is expected to be open to the public on July 1 as part of our Canada Day Celebration in Jubilee Park. We are celebrating the 150th anniversary of confederation and I know our team at the City is working hard to put on an amazing event this year, so I’d encourage you all to plan to attend. The fireworks show at the end of the night is going to be incredible and will be the largest in the history of the city!

Additional capital projects on the books for this year include finishing the new $14 million new growth water reservoir and completing and $8 million upgrade to Pioneer Road between Grove Drive and Highway 16A that will become an important link to residents on the east side of Century Road and a major component of the City’s Transportation Master Plan. Again, we were able to realize cost savings in the neighbourhood of 30 per cent on these two projects, as construction costs came in under budget.

Work will also begin this year on a $2.5 million extension of Grove Drive west from Harvest Ridge to the new K-9 school that will be constructed, and we are not stopping there as the City has committed funds in our 2017 Capital Plan to complete the engineering and functional design study for the long awaited connection of Grove Drive west to Boundary Road and the Holy Trinity Catholic Church.

While enhancing some of our infrastructure to help people get around our city, we’ve also made a significant investment in our commuter transit service. Thanks to $7.3 million in GreenTRIP funding from the Province of Alberta, we were able to purchase six new transit buses last year, which allowed us to expand our service with a new route that started running in February. Route 562 travels around Spruce Grove with service to West Edmonton Mall, the South Campus/Fort Edmonton Park LRT station and the Acheson Industrial Area south.

Future plans for our transit service include adding more routes, and more trips per day to existing routes, developing a $3.4 million park and ride facility and building a bus storage facility by 2020. We currently partner with Parkland County to provide service to the Acheson Industrial Area and we look forward to continue working with both the County and the Town of Stony Plain on future transit enhancements and opportunities. It’s also interesting to note that for the second year in a row, we were ranked as the safest city to drive in Canada based on the findings from Allstate Insurance Company of Canada’s Safe Driving Study. Of the 86 communities included in last year’s study, we were the safest with a collision frequency rate of just 3.6 per cent.

Collaboration is such an important part of our success as a city. We are a strong advocate for regional cooperation within the Tri-Municipal Region and at the Capital Region Board. We recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding as part of the Metro Mayors Alliance, which is a group of municipalities in the Edmonton region, including Spruce Grove, who have a desire to act as one metro region on regionally significant issues. The priority areas we will be starting with are transit, infrastructure and land use planning, and economic development.

Closer to home, we are part of the Inter-municipal Collaboration Committee with both Parkland County and the Town of Stony Plain. Together we also signed a Memorandum of Understanding and look for ways to negotiate and manage challenges, while identifying projects and opportunities that can lead to benefits for residents of the entire Tri-Municipal Region. I believe we are a region without borders.

A recent resident satisfaction survey, completed in the fall of 2016, showed that overall, residents are proud of this community and have a high level of satisfaction with the City’s programs, services and facilities. In fact, 94 per cent of those surveyed said they would recommend Spruce Grove as a place to live. This backs up the findings from MoneySense magazine that ranked Spruce Grove as one of the best places to live in Canada in 2016 and previously recognized us as one of the country’s top 10 places to raise a family in 2015.

We accomplished a great deal in 2016 and I am excited and optimistic about what’s ahead for us this year and even further down the road. There will certainly be challenges, but I am confident that by setting our sights on the future, City Council and Administration will be able to ensure that Spruce Grove remains the best place to live, work and play.

I’d like to thank and acknowledge City staff for their creativity, dedication and expertise. You are all an invaluable part of making Spruce Grove a successful, vibrant and welcoming city. Thank you to my fellow council members for your ongoing commitment and support of this community that we are all so proud to serve. Thank you as well to our regional partners – the Town of Stony Plain, Parkland County, Parkland School Division and Evergreen School Division – for your dedication and vision. And thank you to the builders and development community for your continued confidence and investment in Spruce Grove.

And a huge thank you to the Spruce Grove and District Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event every year. We certainly appreciate your ongoing work to promote our great city and support the businesses who call Spruce Grove home.

And with that, I'd like to end with a community video that I believe perfectly sums up why Spruce Grove is a place where people choose to live, raise a family and grow a business. Thank you to everyone for your time this evening and I look forward to working with all of you as we celebrate our city, embrace the present, build our future!

Thank you.
Mayor Stuart Houston

Past State of the City Addresses

Delivered March 8, 2016

Good evening everyone, and thank you for coming out tonight to hear my annual State of the City address. On behalf of my colleagues on city council, it's my privilege to be here this evening to share our accomplishments from the past year and provide a snapshot of what we are working on in the coming year.

It's certainly no secret that we, as well as the rest of the province and the country, are in a different position than the last time I gave this address. The reality is that our economy has slowed down and we find ourselves in a slight cooling off period. However, even with these challenges, I'm proud to be able to report that we continue to have significant, and even record breaking, development and investment in our city.

We are moving forward with implementing the vision outlined in the City's Strategic Plan to ensure Spruce Grove is a place where people choose to live, raise a family and grow a business and I will show you proof of that tonight. I am fortunate to work with a forward-thinking council and dedicated City administration team who are committed to advancing these goals. And as we navigate our way through the current economic landscape, I am confident we can also find ways to up our game in the future to make Spruce Grove a resilient, welcoming and prosperous community.

I mentioned we had some record breaking growth in Spruce Grove last year and that begins with our census findings, which showed an all-time high one-year population gain of 8.5 per cent, which is up significantly from our average annual growth rate of 5.9 per cent.

At the time the census was completed, Spruce Grove was home to 12,025 households and 32,036 residents, which is slightly more than double what our population was in 2001 - that's pretty tremendous growth over just 14 years! It also confirmed that Spruce Grove is a family-oriented community, as our largest population groups are ages 30-34, 35-39 and then children ages 0-9.

In fact, last year MoneySense magazine named Spruce Grove one of the 10 best places in Canada to raise a family and one of the top 100 best places to live in Canada! We already know that Spruce Grove is a fantastic place to call home, but it's also great validation to have it independently confirmed, and publicized, by a respected third-party source.

We will be conducting our annual census again this year to ensure we have the most up-to-date demographic information for our community, as this is invaluable when we are planning for the wants and needs of our residents both today and in the future.

With such tremendous population growth, we also saw healthy numbers in our residential development with $133.7 million in building permit value in 2015, which, given the cooling economy, was more robust than expected. Approximately 92 per cent of the total building permits we issued last year was for residential construction, which is consistent with previous years.

We had 572 housing starts in Spruce Grove last year that were evenly split between multifamily, semi-detached and single detached homes. As a municipality we had the second highest number of housing starts, outside of Edmonton, in the Capital Region according to data released by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

On the commercial side, building permits for new commercial structures doubled in 2015 to 10 buildings at a value of $22.8 million, which is the highest activity level we've had since 2010. We also had 64 permits for commercial improvements last year with a value of $7.8 million, which is a new record for the City, bringing our total commercial building permit value to $30.6 million.

This supports the findings from a 2015 report done by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business that listed the Greater Edmonton region, including Spruce Grove, as one of the top 10 places in Canada to start and grow a business.

In addition to this commercial development, we also welcomed five new industrial buildings to Spruce Grove last year with $6.2 million in building permit value and I'm pleased to say the average value of both new commercial and industrial buildings has been generally increasing, which reflects the development of larger, high quality structures going up in the city.

When you look at the overall picture, we issued 1,295 building permits in 2015, which is down slightly from last year, but is still more than 16 per cent higher than activity levels in 2013 and with a total permit value of $189 million we're seeing the third best year in the City's history!

We will certainly be watching our development numbers closely in the coming year as we wait for the economy to strengthen, but I'm pleased to say we already have some very exciting - and large - projects on the books for 2016, particularly in the area of institutional development.

As we announced last year, we are thrilled to be welcoming our first post-secondary campus to Spruce Grove with the new $17 million NAIT building. Scheduled to open in June, this 133-acre campus is allowing NAIT to expand its popular crane and hoisting equipment operator program by as much as 80 per cent of its current enrollment. It will be quite a sight with six cranes at the location and the largest having an extension capability equivalent to a 16-storey building! I am confident both the instructors and the students will feel at home in our city as we look for ways to further develop our partnership with the potential for expansion in the future.

Work also continues on the new $25 million integrated RCMP facility, which will be home to RCMP officers from both Spruce Grove and Stony Plain. The co-location of policing services will result in more efficient service to all residents in the region and building one facility will also result in construction and maintenance cost savings.

We are also seeing the completion of the Tri Leisure Village development with the addition of a new $16 million medical building this year. This development has been a great success in the community, bringing a new hotel, as well as several restaurants and businesses to the area. It's located beside our new Border Paving Athletic Centre, which I'll talk about in more detail in a few minutes.

There has been redevelopment in the Westland Market Mall area with several new businesses opening including Pet Valu and Sally Beauty Supply. This year we are seeing additional work inside the mall with the addition of a large Value Village location.

We are also excited that a steering committee made up of members from our chamber and local business community will be implementing a City Centre Revitalization Strategy to attract new development and investment along McLeod Avenue. We are very appreciative of the work this committee will be doing and I am looking forward to hearing their ideas on how we can breathe some new life into our downtown core.

Work continues in the WestWind Centre lands on the northeast corner of the city. This is truly a prime piece of real estate in Spruce Grove and we are expecting development to get started this year as we attract new retailers and tenants to the community.

I am extremely proud of the work our City administration is doing to bring commercial and industrial investment to Spruce Grove. Large organizations and companies are coming here because they recognize the benefits and the value of being part of our community.

Earlier I mentioned that Spruce Grove is a very family-oriented community, which was illustrated in our census findings from last year. With so many young families in the city, it's important we have the necessary programs, amenities and infrastructure in place to support them and help them thrive.

I am thrilled that this year we will see the opening of the first of two new kindergarten to Grade 9 schools in Spruce Grove. Located in the city's east end, the $22 million Prescott Learning Centre will open its doors in September for the new school year. There will also be a $3.5 million Wellness Centre adjacent to the school that will provide, among other things, before and after school child care. This centre is a partnership with the Province of Alberta, Parkland School Division, the development community and the City. On the west side, a $22 million still-to-be named school will be opening to students in 2017.

Access to nearby, quality education is key to having a healthy and engaged community and we worked extremely hard with Parkland School Division and the Province of Alberta to address the need for additional schools in Spruce Grove. We are thankful they also recognized the need, as these new schools are critical to serving our residents. We also look forward to working with Evergreen Catholic Schools in the future as they identify their needs for additional schools in the community.

In addition to having access to educational opportunities, we also believe in the importance of providing our residents with a safe, welcoming place to call home. While construction begins on the new RCMP facility, we have already added new RCMP, Enforcement Services and Fire Services staff both last year and for this current year.

We were also recognized last year in Allstate's 2015 Safe Driving Study as the safest community to drive in Canada! Nationally, motor vehicle collisions increased by 7.3 per cent, while collisions in Spruce Grove decreased by 19 per cent.

Implementation of the new Jubilee Park Master Plan, which includes several short- and long-term enhancements, will also begin this year. This park is one of our community's largest gems and we want to harness its potential to serve as a year-round destination for recreation and leisure.

Near Jubilee Park is our Greenbury neighbourhood, which earlier this year was named one of Canada's top 100 neighbourhoods by Canadian Real Estate Wealth magazine. In total 12 neighbourhoods across Alberta were included after being evaluated on factors including average price, vacancy rate and population growth. Greenbury was the first "green" neighbourhood in Spruce Grove and aligns with our goal of being a sustainable community.

To further achieve that goal, we were pleased to receive up to $7.3 million in GreenTRIP funding last year. This will allow us to make enhancements to our transit service, including the addition of six full-size buses by 2017 and four smaller buses by 2020, as well as the development of a $3.4 million park and ride facility and a bus storage facility by 2020.

Additional projects that will enhance the quality of life in Spruce Grove include a $20 million new growth water reservoir, which will service the city to a population of 75,000, $10 million in further development of Pioneer Road and a $2.4 million Campsite Road upgrade.

As we plan for our future, we also recognized an important part of our past last year by renaming a portion of Westgrove Drive to Nelson Drive, after the Nelson family who were pioneers in our community.

We also welcomed several large events to Spruce Grove last year, including hosting the Stage 5 Finish of the Tour of Alberta. With the support and involvement of our neighbours from the Town of Stony Plain and Parkland County, we welcomed cyclists and spectators from across the world to our community for a travelling festival and race that was broadcast in more than 100 countries.

While their own facility was undergoing renovations, the Edmonton Eskimos held their training camp at Fuhr Sports Park last spring. I had a tremendous feeling of pride as I watched them win the Grey Cup last year and, of course, I believe the work they did in Spruce Grove started them on the road to their eventual victory! I'll always remember the council meeting that included a visit from team president Len Rhodes who shared his praise for our city and gave us an opportunity to get an up close look at the coveted trophy.

Last year was also a big year for many of our City facilities. We celebrated the grand opening of our new Public Works Facility, which will meet the needs of the community for the next 25 years and allow us to maintain the high service levels residents enjoy in Spruce Grove. This year we will be developing a Public Works satellite facility in the Spruce Ridge area to store equipment and reduce on-road travel time to work sites on the west end of Spruce Grove, allowing staff to work more efficiently.

The City's office space was expanded into the King Street Plaza facility to accommodate our Planning and Development and Engineering departments. This will facilitate continued collaboration between these departments as they work on overseeing the growth of the community, while also enhancing customer service.

And, of course, we completed work on the new Border Paving Athletic Centre, which is also the new home of the City's Recreation staff and the Aerials Gymnastics Club. An important part of the facility is a new Community Resource Centre, or "Rec Hub", that will provide an environment for sports, recreation and not-for-profit organizations to access resource information and connect to other organizations in the community. There are also great rental opportunities at the centre, from meeting rooms to storage space, which will be a huge help to many of our community groups.

This centre was truly a labour of love for many of those involved and it fills me with a great deal of pride when I see how this facility is meeting the needs of so many in our community - and in particular the Aerials who worked and fundraised for years to achieve the dream of a new location for their members. An official grand opening event will be happening later this year, so stay tuned!

There are many components of our municipality that focus on providing day-to-day core services to our residents, from waste collection and road maintenance to bill payments and utility inquiries. These core services are essential, as they meet the most immediate needs and expectations of our residents. However, we must also take care to plan for the needs and expectations that will be coming several months, years and even decades from now.

Spruce Grove has always been a community with a strong focus on its future. We understand the value of not only dealing with the needs of today, but planning for the needs of tomorrow. To accomplish this, we are conducting a growth study that will look at necessary land requirements for the city for the next 50 years. We are also developing a long-term capital plan that will look at requirements for the city for the next 25 years, which is a pro-active approach to identifying and determining our needs.

The development of a cultural master plan is underway to identify ways we can profile our cultural resources and promote them to both our residents and visitors.

Work is also nearly complete on a social sustainability plan, which will look at the connections between the economy, the environment and society and how they can work together to achieve long-term prosperity and continued quality of life for present and future residents. We know Spruce Grove is a growing community and while we welcome that growth, we also need to take proactive measures to ensure Spruce Grove continues to be a great place to live, work and play. Creating a social sustainability plan will ensure the necessary policies and strategies are in place to anticipate and respond to changing social needs in a rapidly growing community.

We certainly had a busy and productive year in 2015 and it would appear this coming year will be more of the same! We recognize there will be challenges as we proceed in today's somewhat uncertain economic climate and we must be diligent as we find creative and cost-saving solutions to weather this storm, while still maintaining high service levels for our residents. I have absolute confidence in the ability of city council and administration to meet these challenges and come out the other side in a stronger position than before.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank and acknowledge the staff at the City of Spruce Grove for their dedication and expertise. I'd also like to thank my fellow council members for their commitment and passion for our city, as well as our partners, school divisions, community groups, and the business and development community, who play a huge role in our ongoing success. I must also thank the Spruce Grove and District Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event and for their ongoing work in promoting our city and welcoming and supporting the many great businesses in the community.

And thanks to each of you for your time this evening and for the many contributions you make to our city. We are truly fortunate to be part of such a strong and vibrant community. The table is set for success in Spruce Grove and by working together and capitalizing on the opportunities that are in front of us, I know we will achieve great things.

Thank you.
Mayor Stuart Houston

Delivered March 12, 2015

Good evening everyone, and thank you for inviting me to share my annual State of the City address with you. On behalf of City Council, I’m pleased to highlight what we accomplished last year and what’s on the horizon for 2015. We’re already off to a solid start with many projects and initiatives, which is an advantage when facing a busy year. I can assure you that what you’ll hear from me tonight will demonstrate Spruce Grove’s willingness for growth and change as well as our commitment to community-based amenities and services that meet the expectations of our residents, business owners and visitors.

Last spring, Council developed and adopted a new 20-year strategic plan, which serves as the City’s foundation to ensure a long-term plan is in place for the community. It is our blueprint for building an exceptional city, and was used to form the 2015-2017 Corporate Plan, which is the City's principal guiding document for governance, community development and service delivery.

Our overarching focus is to make Spruce Grove a place where people choose to live, raise a family and grow a business. Being the community of choice means that we need to create a dynamic city with an outstanding quality of life. This goal requires excellent municipal services, welcoming gathering places, an active leisure, recreation and sports environment, a respected arts and culture scene and a diversified business community that enjoys a prosperous self-sustaining regional home.

Building an exceptional city is no small feat, but I am excited to be working with a visionary council, an excellent administrative team, our esteemed members of the Chamber of Commerce as well as the builders, developers, investors and entrepreneurs that have shown the confidence to believe in our city and drive an economy of prosperity where we all benefit. There is much to be achieved by working together and we are excited and dedicated to meeting the challenge.

We’ve already seen that more people are choosing to call Spruce Grove home. Results from last year’s municipal census indicated that we have over 11,000 households and a total estimated population of almost 30,000 people. Looking back since the 2011 Federal census, the city has grown approximately 4.25% each year.

Our continuing population growth is accompanied by additional development in residential, commercial and industrial sectors. Last year was another record breaking year with $243 million in total building permit valuations, which surpasses the previous record of $194 million in 2013 by almost $50 million.

This equates to about $1 million in building permit investments each and every business day in Spruce Grove!

On the residential side, activity was far more robust in 2014 than predicted. We had a total building permit value of $187 million, which is our highest residential building permit value to date. The types of housing provided remain balanced, seeing an increase in all unit types relative to previous years. The total number of new dwelling units approved increased 24% from 2013 to set a new record. This has also made Spruce Grove one of the fastest growing municipalities in the Capital region.

Our policy-led dedication toward housing diversity, coupled with flexible residential land use districts, has made the City competitive in the regional housing market for all unit types. It has created new and trendy neighbourhoods with a wide range of housing choices and many options for homebuyers to choose from.

The highest percentage of building permits for new units occurred in McLaughlin, which included an apartment building with over 100 units as well as mixed low to medium residential development. Following closely behind were the popular neighbourhoods of Greenbury, Harvest Ridge and Spruce Ridge. We also welcomed the neighbourhood of Tonewood on the east side of our city, and look forward to further construction in that area this year.

A priority for council is to diversify our tax base and we are achieving success in this area. In the commercial sector, our “open for business” attitude, which is eagerly echoed by the Chamber of Commerce, has continued to attract a variety of businesses to Spruce Grove resulting in more options for our residents. Last year’s commercial building permit and improvements number held steady at $19 million with five new buildings. We have averaged about $20 million every year for the last five years translating to an impressive $100 million in commercial building permits and improvements since 2010.

This surge was thanks, in part, to the new Tri Leisure Village development, which saw the opening of the 130-room Holiday Inn Express & Suites as well as a new Boston Pizza in 2014. Growth continues with the addition of Caffé Sorrentino, Rush Nutrition, Taco Del Mar and Subway. In the future, we’re looking forward to welcoming more shops and restaurants to the area as well as a professional building.

At the centre of the Tri Leisure Village will be a new $12 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. This facility will open in late fall of this year, and together with the nearby Fuhr Sports Park and the TransAlta Tri Leisure Centre, it will create a community hub for sports, recreation and leisure.

Continued commercial growth was also seen at the Century Crossing development. This large-scale retail area saw the openings of Peavey Mart, Coop Gas Bar, Carl’s Jr., Opa Souvlaki and Mattress Mattress in 2014. This year, we are looking forward to welcoming the Sunset Grill restaurant, Tommy Guns Original Barbershop, Smiles Dental Group, Century Crossing Eye and Vision Care and Tirecraft.

We’re not stopping there! We also look forward to continued progress at the Westwind Centre, a 40-acre mixed use commercial and residential development in the city’s northeast corner. Services and infrastructure are being put in place to support commercial opportunities and we anticipate more news on this development in 2015.

We’ve also been examining ways in which we can revitalize the city centre area and make it a vibrant part of our community. As an initial step, we produced a discussion paper that outlined the potential issues that we might experience as we move forward. With this in mind, a group was formed out of the local business community, for the purpose of identifying and considering future direction for the revitalization. We’re grateful to have the involvement of the Chamber of Commerce as well as local business owners and look forward to working together on this exciting project.

Shifting over to our industrial parks, we see that they continue to draw interest from investors and businesses. Last year, we more than tripled our average of three industrial buildings per year to permitting 10 new industrial buildings, the most in our history! This led to a record amount of industrial permit and improvement values, totalling $21.7 million – which is more than double the amount achieved in 2013.

In order to attract more industrial development, we’ve taken strides to strengthen our industrial marketing strategy, including re-facing the industrial billboards along highways 16 and 16A, updating our industrial promotional video to portray current activity in our parks and completing and distributing our award-winning Here We Grow profile series.

In total, Spruce Grove issued 1,392 building permits last year, which is a 25% increase over permit activity in 2013, and a 51% increase over 2012. In fact, 2014 was the busiest year in the City’s history in terms of building permit issuance, and is the second year in a row that permitting activities have set a new record.

Many in the development community have asked my opinion on the recent downturn in oil and gas revenues in Alberta and what effect that may have on Spruce Grove. I believe our calculated, open-minded approach to residential, commercial and industrial development in our city will help us ride out any shifts in the local and national economies. And, in 2008 when I stood before you, I indicated that we believed that by staying the course we would continue to attract more residents and businesses to our city. I think you will agree – this strategy helped us get where we are today and we have faith that our success is recurrent!

To help us achieve what I just mentioned, and keep us focused on the big picture, we’ll be conducting a growth study. This project will help us to identify options and strategies we can apply over the next 25 to 50 years and the impacts of different growth models. The study will begin with an introduction to the work plan in April, and we’ll be hosting various opportunities to gather information and share ideas with our municipal neighbours, development stakeholders and citizens.

Another growth related strategy we’ve invested in is making the application process easier for home builders and developers. We evaluated our residential review process and were able to identify ways in which we could make it more efficient. For example, our new goal is to process home application packages, including lot grading, development permit and building permit procedures, within 28 days from the drop off of a complete application. We will continue to work with home builders and developers to provide consistency in processing timelines.

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

It’s our job to make sure there is a balance between growth and the service levels provided to our residents. This continues to be a challenge for us, but we know that it is a principle attraction factor for those who live in or are looking to move into our community. People want to live in a place where they can experience a high quality of life and rely on excellent programs and services.

With this in mind, we continue to offer programs like our Canada Day Celebration, which is held at popular Jubilee Park, and the Christmas in Central Park light-up event that has become an annual tradition for many local families.

As an exciting addition to Spruce Grove’s sporting events scene, we’ll be hosting the entire spring training camp for the Edmonton Eskimos this year. This is the result of an existing partnership that brought An Afternoon with the Edmonton Eskimos to Spruce Grove’s Fuhr Sports Park last Father’s Day.

We also continue to participate in the Halloween Mini Monster Bash event, a fantastic example of tri-municipal cooperation with both the Town of Stony Plain and Parkland County.

Collaborative work also continues on an event hosting strategy for the Tri-Municipal Region. The strategy is complete, has been presented to Council and focuses on opportunities to attract more events to the area that can showcase what we have to offer. The next step is to establish a hosting committee that will actively seek to bring one or two major events to the area each year.

In the summer of 2014, we harnessed the opportunity to host the Capital Region Board’s Housing Symposium Tour, which showcased the Greenbury neighbourhood as an example of market affordable housing and a model of urban development that satisfies the vision of this council.

This year, with the support and involvement of our neighbours from the Town of Stony Plain and Parkland County, will host the Stage 5 Finish of the third annual Tour of Alberta, an elite professional cycling race. This is a huge event, requiring hundreds of volunteers, a travelling festival and a race that will be broadcast in over 100 countries.

The list of things that Spruce Grove has to offer continues to add to the quality of life for our citizens.

We were more than pleased to hear that two new kindergarten to Grade 9 schools will be built in our city. The first, which will see construction begin this year, will be located in the Prescott neighbourhood on the east side of Spruce Grove, and the second will be located in the west, south of Grove Drive. We have worked extremely hard with the Parkland School Division and the Province of Alberta and are thankful to them for recognizing this emergent need in Spruce Grove. These schools are an absolute necessity for serving our growing community and providing proper education to the youth in our city.

It’s also important to us to provide residents of all ages with active and healthy pursuits that contribute to a well-rounded lifestyle. Last year we opened a new playground in Jesperdale and replaced the play structures at both the Landsdowne and Greystone Park playgrounds, proudly donating the equipment removed to communities in developing countries. And new playgrounds will be welcomed in Deer Park and Spruce Ridge this year.

We also made upgrades to our outdoor skate park as well as modernized the Brookwood Rink. And, we updated the Jubilee Park Master Plan. This updated plan recognizes opportunities to grow and expand Jubilee Park to harness its potential to serve as a year-round destination for recreation and leisure adding to the quality living we all enjoy. I’m sure you will all agree that this is one spectacular park!

Along with the ongoing and regular maintenance of open spaces and parks, plans for 2015 include constructing rest nodes along the existing Heritage Grove Park Trail, in partnership with our great friends from the Rotary Club. And we’re investing $1.2 million to construct a midget baseball diamond at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic High School and a PeeWee Class A diamond at Central Park to support our focus on quality recreation amenities and healthy lifestyles.

We also made improvements for the benefit of our four-legged friends and their owners. This past December, the Cpl. Jim Galloway Memorial Off Leash Area, received new lighting installations. This improvement allows park goers to enjoy better visibility throughout the park after nightfall.

On the cultural side, Horizon Stage, which we share and partner together with our friends from Parkland School Division and Parkland County, continues its fine tradition of hosting a variety of performances that appeal to all audiences and musical tastes. And, in 2015, we’ll continue to strengthen our vibrant cultural scene by developing a vision and master plan for arts and culture in our city.

To move us forward in reaching our goal of diverting 50% of waste from the landfills, the City introduced the option of a smaller black waste cart as well as year round organics collection. We’ll continue to promote these eco-friendly initiatives in 2015 as well as explore a three-stream pilot program in local schools.

On the City’s capital side, we will continue to oversee and maintain several facilities throughout the community, including the development of new City-owned facilities. Work is expected to wrap up in the coming months on our new $18.6 million Public Works Facility, which will accommodate an estimated 25 years of growth in Spruce Grove. This new facility will allow our staff to proudly continue providing the high quality service that we experience in Spruce Grove.

Other exciting capital projects for 2015 included completing major renovations to the Elks Hall, which recently reopened, and the start of construction to create City office space in the King Street Plaza that will be the new home of our Planning and Engineering departments.

To assist with developing the vision of Spruce Grove as a modern, urban centre, we enhanced the visual appeal of the Highway 16A corridor. The new eye-catching median strip features a combination of retaining walls and raised planter beds containing trees, shrubs and perennials that will have our city in bloom this spring.

Work will also continue in the area of transportation as we collaborate with our municipal partners to study possible improvements to our existing transit program. This will include planning for transit system growth initiatives such as a GreenTRIP funding application for future bus purchases and a permanent park and ride location that has the potential to feed a future connection to the Acheson Industrial Park.

In regards to the safety of our community, we were able to enhance our protective services through the addition of one new full-time RCMP officer in 2014 with another in 2015. We will also seek to hire additional firefighters and a Fire Prevention Officer. Being a safe city is important to us and we continue to make significant investments in this area.

One of the most exciting initiatives was the announcement made a few months ago about our partnership with the Town of Stony Plain on a new RCMP facility. The co-location of policing services will lead to more efficient service to all residents in the region and it also allows for design and construction cost savings, operational synergies as well as longer term maintenance savings. The concept of the building will see it house municipal RCMP personnel as well as provincial rural and traffic units. Construction is scheduled to start later this year with an anticipated opening in 2017.

We are very proud of the accomplishments and progress made last year, and look forward to taking on new challenges this year. Our hands will certainly be full, but we know that the continued support, collaboration and involvement between Council, City staff, residents, regional partners, community groups, school divisions, and the business and development community will produce great results.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank and acknowledge the staff at the City of Spruce Grove for their commitment to being knowledgeable about the work done across the city and their commitment to serving our citizens. I’d also like to thank my fellow council members for their unyielding dedication to this community. We are a future-focused group that is dedicated to accomplishing great things for the benefit of all who live, work and play in Spruce Grove.

I thank you for your time this evening and for the impact you’ve each had within this city. Spruce Grove is a strong, active and growing community that will continue to make strides toward being a truly exceptional city. Realizing this goal will take a collective effort, and I, for one, look forward to working alongside you to achieve it.

Thank you.
Mayor Stuart Houston

Good 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 , 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 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 . 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. 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

Delivered February 12, 2013

Good evening everyone, and thank you for coming out tonight to hear my annual State of the City address. On behalf of city council, it is my pleasure to be here to share what we accomplished last year and tell you about the exciting things we have planned as we continue to focus on making Spruce Grove a great place to live, work and play.

I’d like to begin by asking you a simple question: when you think about Spruce Grove, what characteristics come to mind? Some people would describe us as a friendly and welcoming community, while others would comment on our exceptional recreational and cultural amenities.

But I’d like to tell you my answer to that question, and it’s a message we are continually sharing with our residents and business owners, visitors, investors and other levels of government. When I think about Spruce Grove, I see a vibrant, innovative and growing community that has an extremely bright future ahead of it.

Spruce Grove has positioned itself as one of the communities to watch in Alberta and, in my opinion, across the country. We are one of the province’s fastest growing communities. Our population has grown by a steady five per cent each year since 2001, and that number increased to six per cent in 2011. The most recent federal census numbers show a 33.9 per cent increase from 2006 to 2011.

The City will be conducting our own census this year, which will provide us with an even clearer, more up-to-date picture of our population and the residents who choose to call Spruce Grove home. This census data will be an incredibly important tool as we plan for the future of our community.

This census will also help us prepare for the growth the city is experiencing. Last year the value of all our building permits was $165 million, which is only $4 million shy of breaking the $169 million record previously set in 2007, and we fully expect strong residential and commercial growth to continue in 2013.

Since 2006, residential housing starts have averaged 544 units per year. This equates to a value of $743 million or an average value of $106 million per year. Last year we had 674 housing starts with a total value of nearly $128 million, so we are seeing this trend continue. It’s also interesting to note that according to the Canadian Home Builders’ Association , there are approximately 1,350 people who are employed in Spruce Grove in the home building sector.

These housing starts are providing accommodations for people who are filling the more than 1,100 jobs that were created in Spruce Grove last year. They are happening in existing subdivisions, as well as some that are quite new to the community and include a variety of housing options. We understand people have a range of housing-related needs, so we work with developers to provide home buyers with various options to suit their budget and their lifestyle – from condominiums and townhomes to duplexes and single-detached homes.

In fact, last year a record-breaking 340 multi-family units were built in Spruce Grove, which far surpasses our previous record of 233 units in 2003 and shows the demand for diversified housing options in our city.

Several of our newer subdivisions are definitely “out of the box” when we look at what they are offering prospective buyers. The Greenbury development is certainly our most unique, as it offers a mix of housing styles. Spruce Grove is the first municipality in the Capital Region to introduce this type of development that tastefully integrates single family homes, townhouses and duplexes on the same street in harmony and style. Not only is this development located next to the beautiful Jubilee Park, but it’s pushing the envelope when it comes to green building practices that help preserve the environment.

Two other new neighbourhoods that I’d like to highlight are Kenton and Prescott, which are also in close proximity to Jubilee Park. Kenton includes over-sized estate properties, single family homes and high value duplexes, while the Prescott  community features a creek and walkway system that is not only beautiful to look at, but also supports a healthy, active lifestyle. Both will see new homes constructed this year.

We are pleased to have some new speciality housing developments in our community, including Qualico’s award winning Windsor Estates, which is entering its second phase of development and caters to the 55-plus market. The Copper Sky Lodge is expected to open by mid-year and will provide 130 supportive living units that merge the concepts of independent living and 24-hour support.

As a City, we also recognized the need to provide affordable housing options. We were able to access provincial grants to fund 26 affordable rental units within the new 99-unit Lake Ridge Apartments building, which opened last year on the City’s east side. West Grove Manor, located on the City’s west end on Jennifer Heil Way near the TransAlta Tri Leisure Centre, is also now open and providing 103 affordable and low income apartment units.

There is truly something for everyone in Spruce Grove and this demonstrates we are managing our development with a sustainable, inclusive and long-term approach that will ensure our ongoing success as the City continues to grow.

In addition to giving people options for where they live, we are also continuing to provide more options for where they can work, shop, eat and socialize. Our “open for business” attitude, which we share with the Chamber of Commerce , is attracting a wide range of commercial development to Spruce Grove.

Since 2006, we have seen non-residential building permits with a total value of $185.5 million, which is an average of $26.5 million each year. In 2011 that number reached $32 million and last year we surpassed that value with $33 million in non-residential building permits.

We have seen this development in every corner of our community and if you combine our residential and non-residential building permits since 2006, we anticipate crossing the $1 billion mark in 2013, which is very exciting. I would now like to talk to you about some of these developments that are planned and others that are already underway.

On the west side of the city, along McLeod Avenue, we have seen development in Westgrove Common and the adjacent McLaughlin area with the opening of a new Mac’s convenience store and the Canadian Brewhouse. Work is also well underway on a new car wash and the Nelson Commercial Centre.

On the east, we continue to see the expansion of Century Crossing. This $75-million development is currently the largest retail area in Spruce Grove, providing a mix of shops and services to visitors and residents.

Last year we were pleased to welcome Winners, Sport Check, Servus Credit Union PetSmart and Save-on-Foods and we have more openings scheduled for this year, including Michael’s, ATB Financial, State and Main and Peavy Mart.

Also on the southeast side of the city is the new Diamond Grove RV Park, which will be opening this summer with 253 fully serviced stalls and a sani-dump facility to accommodate visitors to Spruce Grove. I suspect that even some local residents will take advantage of this beautiful new amenity.

We are also looking at the construction of a new Holiday Inn Express hotel that will be located south of the TransAlta Tri Leisure Centre. This hotel will be part of the estimated $36 million Tri Leisure Village development that will eventually include restaurants, shops and a professional building.

On the northeast corner of Spruce Grove, where Century Road meets the Yellowhead Highway, is WestWind Centre, an integrated mix of commercial and residential development on approximately 130 acres. The first phase of residential development, which is the Kenton neighbourhood I previously mentioned, is already underway and will see homes going up this spring. The first phase of commercial development along Century Road will also begin this year with site preparation, servicing and roads, with plans to have the initial tenants in place in 2014.

On the industrial side, we have around 1,600 acres of industrial land in Spruce Grove in existing and new industrial parks.

Approximately half of this land is currently developed or fully-serviced, and our six existing industrial parks are home to 257 businesses, which makes Spruce Grove a hub for this type of activity and is drawing interest from a range of investors and businesses. We are working closely with our industrial park developers to attract new investment.

We are excited about the ground breaking on Feb. 20 of the $6 million Premier Garage Condos on Century Road South. The City is well positioned for industrial growth in Spruce Grove Industrial Park  and the new Campsite Business Park . A number of major companies have recently completed or are undertaking expansions in Spruce Grove including Cargill Value Added Meats, Bee Maid Honey, Entrec Corporation and Thompson Bros. These are all positive signs supporting the growth of our industrial base and I would encourage you to check out Spruce Grove Industrial Park on Golden Spike Road and Campsite Business Park on Campsite Road.

In our economic development strategy, Partnerships for Prosperity, this council has and continues to set objectives to grow our non-residential tax base over the next 10 years to the approved target of 20 per cent.

This is an ambitious target given the rapid growth of our residential sector, but we have already seen an improvement of one per cent last year, putting us at 16 per cent. We are confident we can reach the goal of 20 per cent by working with key industries, developers and our business community to identify and act on opportunities to bring new industrial and commercial development to Spruce Grove, such as the new hotel and many of the businesses in Century Crossing.

Our current retail inventory has a vacancy rate of less than four per cent and we recently completed a retail gap analysis that identifies merchandise categories and retailers that are a compatible fit for Spruce Grove.

This work ensures we are on course to meet that 20 per cent target, and that’s good news for everyone who lives in Spruce Grove. This will help diversify our tax base and create new jobs in the community. Our top 10 employers in Spruce Grove already provide more than 2,400 jobs and by expanding our industrial and commercial base, we will be able to watch that number grow.

Our downtown core is another area we will be focusing on in 2013. We want to investigate ways that we can revitalize this part of our City so we will be developing a vision and plan for downtown redevelopment. As part of this process, we anticipate working closely with the Chamber of Commerce and businesses that are currently operating in our downtown region to gather their ideas and insights.

Together, this creates an environment that enables people to live and work in Spruce Grove, while also being able to do their shopping or find a specific product or service without leaving city limits. We are keeping those dollars in our community and creating an interwoven network of community sustainability and business prosperity.

And while we are excited about the growth we are seeing in Spruce Grove, it’s also one of our biggest challenges. We need to ensure the growth 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.

We know these programs and services are the very reason so many people choose to live and work in Spruce Grove. Everything from our road maintenance and our snow removal to our many parks and playgrounds contributes to our quality of life.

One major addition that I was pleased to see officially open to the public last year was Jubilee Park. As the new home of our Canada Day Celebration, this 65-acre park is a space where our residents can come and enjoy the best unstructured recreational opportunities in Spruce Grove. With paved walking and bike trails, picnic areas and a playground that is universally accessible, this park shows our commitment to enhancing open spaces and providing our citizens with the opportunity to have an active and healthy lifestyle. Since 2006, we have invested approximately $18 million in amenities including Jubilee Park, Fuhr Sports Park, Henry Singer Ball Park, the Grant Fuhr and Stu Barnes arenas and the Woodhaven ball diamond.

We have also upgraded existing equipment and built new playgrounds throughout the City, spending more than $2 million over the past seven years on these initiatives. This year we will be modernizing the Brookwood outdoor rink and conducting an assessment of the skate park.

The average age of our residents is 34 years and 28 per cent of our population is under the age of 20. The cool part about that is eight per cent are kids under the age of four, so we know we are home to many young families who enjoy having access to recreational opportunities in their own backyards. But it goes deeper than that. Providing these options is also about creating and maintaining a vibrant community with residents who are proud of where they live and willing to give back. As a City, this has always been one of our top priorities as we look to enhance community development.

Another aspect of that community pride is having a City that is clean and attractive. Each year, we dedicate a significant amount of our budget and staff time to sweeping our streets, maintaining our green spaces and other projects that help beautify our community.

Last year we were fortunate to partner with the Rotary Club of Spruce Grove on an initiative that enabled us to spend $30,000 on ornamental trees. These trees were planted along Grove Drive last fall and this spring we can look forward to seeing them bloom with pink flowers.

This year we are going to be placing temporary planters featuring annual flowers at intersections throughout the community. This is a simple way for us to show that we care about our community in a way that both residents and visitors can enjoy.

Providing both residents and visitors with a safe and healthy community is also a priority for the City. Last year we enhanced our protective services with the addition of four new firefighters and one new RCMP member and we have committed to one additional full-time RCMP member this year. Our budget commitment to our City’s Protective Services, which includes RCMP, Fire Services and Enforcement Services, is more than $10 million each year.

In addition to providing quality recreational opportunities in a beautiful and safe community, Spruce Grove is also well-known for its cultural programs, such as those that come to Horizon Stage. This season marks Horizon Stage’s 30th anniversary and we are truly blessed to have this world-class performing arts centre, which we share and partner together with our great friends from Parkland School Division  and Parkland County , in our city. To mark this occasion, we will be launching a brand new website for Horizon Stage later this year.

The City also takes a proactive approach when it comes to maintaining our roads and sewer systems. Our 10 year capital plan will see us strategically invest approximately $87 million over the next 10 years on new capital assets such as infrastructure, facilities, parks and trails, with more than $12 million planned for transportation upgrades over the next five years alone. One example of a significant project on the books for this year is road upgrades at the Century Road and Highway 16 interchange. This project will include access lanes leading to and from the interchange, an additional turn lane, bridge improvements and an additional lane into Spruce Grove.

This year work will also commence on our new Public Works Facility. Council approved this project in December and it is the largest capital project in the history of the City. Located on the same street as the Century Off-Leash Park, this new facility will enable staff to work more efficiently and accommodate an estimated 25 years of growth in the community.

As an organization, we are always looking for ways we can improve the way we do things so last year the City went through a comprehensive governance review. This review looked at the senior levels of the organization, including council, the city manager and the strategic leadership team to ensure we are making decisions, communicating with stakeholders and providing leadership based on leading practices.

The results of the review were shared with us last year and I’m both pleased and proud to say the City is meeting common practices and many leading practices in the way we function as an organization. However, there is always room for improvement, and we will now be working to implement the recommendations from this review process to help us in our commitment to move from “Good to Great”.

We also want to hear from our residents and find out how they think we’re doing, so we will be conducting a resident satisfaction survey this year. Our last survey told us that over 94 per cent of our residents noted Spruce Grove was either a good or great place to live and we look forward to receiving this year’s feedback. Like the census, the results from this will be extremely helpful as we plan for the future and prioritize what our residents both want and need from the City.

We’ll be looking at creating and implementing an event hosting strategy and action plan. We’ve already had several large events come to Spruce Grove, including sporting events and tournaments, but we want to investigate how we can attract even more people and events to our community.

And, of course, it’s also an election year, which means residents will be choosing their city council this fall. This election will be slightly different from past elections in that the mayor and aldermen will be elected to a four-year term, rather than a three-year term.

When I look at what we have planned for 2013, I am excited at the direction we are going in. I am also extremely proud of all that we accomplished last year as a council and as a City. It’s a reflection of the many relationships and partnerships that we have with our business and development community, the Chamber of Commerce, our regional partners, our residents, and community groups and organizations. You are not afraid to roll up your sleeves and get involved and you should all be very proud of the active role you are taking in the future of our City.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t thank and acknowledge the staff at the City of Spruce Grove. These individuals are truly the ones who make the City run on a daily basis and they all take exceptional pride in their work and in providing a high level of customer service to our residents. I’d also like to thank my fellow council members for their forward-thinking approach and dedication to serving this community. I have no doubt that we have the right team in place to help Spruce Grove realize its full potential.

Thank you to all of you for the many contributions you have made, and will continue making, to our city. We are a vibrant, innovative and growing city that is filled with energy and enthusiasm and by working together we can achieve and enjoy the bright future that is ahead of us.

Delivered 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  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 and Twitter 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.