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Strip mall proposed for Capstone gets first reading from Red Deer city council

It doesn’t fit the vision, but shows the neighbourhood is open for development, say some councillors
Although a single-storey strip mall development doesn’t fit with this concept illustration of the Capstone at Riverlands area, Red Deer city council gave it initial approval on Monday, allowing the proposal to go to a public hearing on Sept. 12. (Contributed illustration)

A new strip mall development for Capstone was given initial approval by Red Deer city council — even though a single-storey complex doesn’t meet the city’s ambitious plans for the area.

For many councillors it came down to sparking new economic activity in this vaunted neighbourhood, next to the downtown and the Red Deer River, after years of pandemic-related inertia.

“Vision is important…but none of us could have foreseen the two-plus years we have suffered under COVID,” said Coun. Vesna Higham. Given the circumstances, she believes “we have to have a little flexibility on the fly, instead of clinging to a vision that might have to be amended.”

A yet unnamed applicant wants to build an L-shaped single-storey structure at 5441 45th St. in the Capstone neighbourhood.

But the proposed one-floor design doesn’t fit the density requirements in the city’s land-use regulations, which call for two storey buildings, at least, in this area.

“The application does not meet the vision of the Riverlands,” concluded administrators, who recommended that council table this application until they can complete a review of the Capstone District’s plans.

After public consultation, perhaps more opportunities for more flexibility will be found within the land use regulations, said administrators, who planned to return to council in October or November with proposed plan amendments.

Coun. Cindy Jefferies supported waiting for this review rather than going forward with a development that’s out of sync with council’s vision for Capstone. She recalled past councils made redevelopment decisions that fell short of the original vision for an area and Red Deerians have had to live with the results. “It’s prudent to take a bit of time to tweak the plans” and get something closer to what the city had originally wanted, Jefferies said.

Coun. Kraymer Barnstable also suggested taking some time — not because he wanted to stall development, he stressed, but because he didn’t want to start off on the wrong track and ultimately have to reject a concept that was too far off the city’s plans for Capstone. Barnstable explained he would rather work with the developer and come up with something that meets both needs.

But the majority of councillors opted to give this single-storey commercial strip mall development first reading so it could go to a public hearing on Sept. 12.

Coun. Victor Doerksen spoke for many on council when he said it was time to “send a signal” that Capstone was open for development. “I don’t want to have to turn it down, make them wait, ask them to jump through more hoops… Please people, let’s get some things going on this site,” he said.

Mayor Ken Johnston was also in the side of the majority in the 6-3 split vote, siding with allowing the proposal to go to a public hearing so council can hear from the applicant.

He noted council doesn’t necessarily have to give the proposal second or third reading if councillors don’t like what they hear.

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