The Pulse: May 2, 2023

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  • 23°C: A mix of sun and cloud. Clearing late in the afternoon. Wind becoming northeast 20 km/h in the morning. High 23. UV index 6 or high. (forecast)
  • Teal: The High Level Bridge will be lit teal for Sexual Violence Awareness Month. (details)

A map showing the boundaries of the proposed Area Structure Plan for the Villeneuve Airport Area, which surrounds the Villeneuve Airport and excludes the hamlet of Villeneuve

Sturgeon County continues push for development of Villeneuve Airport Area

By Colin Gallant

Sturgeon County Mayor Alanna Hnatiw says she's going to keep pushing for a plan to develop the Villeneuve Airport Area, with or without the support of the regional governance board that voted it down in April.

"We're still going to move forward with reaching out to businesses and talking about the area structure plan in preparation for it to pass," she told Taproot.

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board (EMRB), made up of the 13 mayors of municipalities including and surrounding Edmonton, voted down Sturgeon's proposed Area Structure Plan for the area surrounding the Villeneuve Airport (VAA-ASP) at a meeting on April 13. The vote was 6-7, but the noes prevailed because one of them was cast by Edmonton.

The plan aims to draw business activity in tech, aerospace and aviation, defence, and more to about 1,200 hectares of land surrounding the airport. The crux of the disagreement is the definition of the "major employment area" that is attached to the airport in the regional growth plan. Opponents also cited a lack of imminent investment and missing details about infrastructure.

"I really struggled to be able to understand the position of several folks at the table that day," Hnatiw said of the meeting that turned Sturgeon's proposal down. "(The VAA-ASP) was in line with the body of the document of the growth plan, but it wasn't in line with a conceptual map (of major employment areas)."

The growth plan has to be the compass for development in the region, said Mayor Amarjeet Sohi of Edmonton, who found common cause with St. Albert, Fort Saskatchewan, Leduc, Beaumont, and Stony Plain.

"One of the reasons for having a coordinated regional growth plan is to reduce the cost of infrastructure," Sohi told Taproot. "Any new (major employment) area that is added will hopefully be compliant to the principles and values of the growth plan, which is to have an orderly growth, which is to have more coordinated growth, not a one-off type of growth."

Hnatiw told her fellow mayors that Sturgeon County would consider leaving the EMRB as a way to achieve its vision for the Villeneuve Airport Area. Such a move would require the province's permission, but it has a precedent: Wheatland County was released from the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board last year.

"I am always in favour of being at a table and an understanding the perspectives of other folks at the table … (but) the province has to look at whether we are fulfilling the mandate and whether we have the right power in the right place," Hnatiw said in an interview.

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Headlines: May 2, 2023

By Mariam Ibrahim

A chart showing Edmonton's total crime rate per 100,000 people, with an 11.3% increase between 2021 and 2022 but levels that remain lower than 2016 to 2019

Podcast questions presentation of police data

By Colin Gallant

The Edmonton Police Service raised the alarm about an increase in violent crime based on newly released data for 2022, but Episode 218 of Speaking Municipally had questions about those numbers.

"This is not a data dump in the way that you might think," co-host Mack Male said of the April 21 release. "This is Edmonton police releasing some charts and saying 'Trust us, this data is accurate.'"

The report, which was timed for a nationwide campaign for bail reform, indicated that violent crime increased by 16.5% from about 13,000 cases in 2021 to more than 15,000 in 2022. Edmonton saw the highest number of violent criminal incidents recorded in a single year, said Sean Tout, executive director of information management and intelligence.

But the definition of "violent criminal incidents" is not clear. And most of the charts show criminal incidents were less numerous and less severe in 2022 than before the pandemic. Pavlek presented an open-minded-if-skeptical lens to the way EPS reported its data.

"It could be that the EPS is presenting data that is completely true and forthcoming and presents a story that we need to remedy … (but) there was no spreadsheet that you could download the data and look at different contexts, there (were) no robust definitions or anything like that," he said. "I don't know that this report provides us enough to say truly: 'We are making data-based decisions.'"

Hear more in the April 28 episode, along with takes on the ongoing hiatus of the solar rebate program, efforts to repair social housing, the number of trees at risk in Hawrelak Park, and the politics of Calgary's arena deal.

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