Stony Plain, Alberta
Rooted in tradition
Business View Magazine interviews William Choy, Mayor of Stony Plain, Alberta, for our focus on Infrastructure & Growth in Canadian Cities.
Stony Plain is a lively and dynamic community located in Parkland County just 17 kilometres from Alberta’s capital city of Edmonton. Despite its steadfast growth, Stony Plain proudly prioritizes and maintains its strong cultural heritage while offering city-sized amenities and a progressive business environment. The community provides an array of housing and transportation options, an excellent school district, and a mix of both locally- and nationally-owned retail shops, restaurants, and professional services. Stony Plain’s many painted murals representing various periods, events, and people throughout the town’s history portray a visible iconic connection to its roots.
William Choy has been Mayor of Stony Plain since 2012 and has seen a great many changes and improvements in the town during that time. Business View Magazine recently asked Mayor Choy for his insights into current and future plans for economic development and growth of this vibrant Alberta community. The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.
BVM: Could you give us an overview of recent and current projects in Stony Plain?
Choy: “We’ve been laying out the groundwork and doing a lot of infrastructure projects amongst ourselves because if we don’t invest in our own community then who else is going to? If we can’t show the business people and the land owners that we are willing to invest dollars to improve our infrastructure and build amenities, then no one else will, either. Much of the infrastructure in the downtown area is about 60 years old; a lot of that is sewer. But other areas of town are good because they’re much newer. We just spent a lot of money doing a north-west arterial road, which we renamed Veterans Blvd. to honor the veterans in our community that have sacrificed a lot so we can have our rights and freedom. We did that infrastructure project two years ago to provide access to new core sections of land development and also provide ease of egress onto existing subdivisions.
“In the Old Town South, we’re getting a new replacement K-9 school built and there are many synergies to create a recreational campus with the school and all the fields that are currently there. At Stony Plain Golf Course, our public 18-hole golf course, we re-installed all the greens in 2019, so we have a beautiful facility with a driving range, a putting green, as well as an indoor golf simulator during the winter months, plus availability for catering for tournaments and private events. So that’s a great economic driver for the community.”
BVM: What is the plan for downtown revitalization?
Choy: “Currently, we’re finishing phase three and working on phase four of the downtown redevelopment. It’s been a major four-year project to replace all the old underground sanitary sewers etc. on our main street. That should be completed at the end of 2021. Another big project happening in the core area is the relocation of the library – moving it from Forest Green Plaza to downtown Stony Plain. We’re making it more walkable, more pedestrian friendly.
“Then when we finish phase four this year, we’ll do facades and look at partnerships and grant funding for business owners to help them refurbish their building fronts so that brings attractiveness to the downtown core. Our main street is quite healthy; about 90 percent full. We’ve done a good job of maintaining that small town look and feeling so there is a lot of support from residents and also visitors for shopping and lunch or dinner. As dollars get tighter we’re marketing to the surrounding region, not further out. We also have 42 km. of trails that are maintained year-round. As we have more housing developments, we’ll make sure they’re connected to the rest of the community and especially to the downtown.”
BVM: Does Stony Plain have a young or aging demographic?
Choy: “Our average population is about 36.3 years of age – a very young demographic that continues to grow. And that has a lot to do with the fact that we’re a small, close-knit community that looks out for each other and supports one another as we raise families. We’re also looking at providing more amenities to keep our residents employed and active in our community. We’re a bedroom community to the resource sector around here. The last time we checked, about 25 percent of our residents actually worked in Stony Plain, mostly in retail and commercial. The other 75 percent work within the Greater Edmonton region.”
BVM: What industries are helping to grow your economy?
Choy: “We’ve done a lot the last few years to promote tourism and culture; making sure our murals depict our history and that brings people from the surrounding area to come out for ‘daycation’ visits. We also have the Stony Plain & Parkland Pioneer Museum and the Multicultural Heritage Center, which helps us preserve and retell the stories of our past to make sure we’re aware of where we came from. So, we have a good grounding as we continue to grow and mature as a community.
“Our single largest employer is the school division. We also have Westview Health Centre, and the Town of Stony Plain is a fairly large employer, along with large multinationals like Safeway and some hotel chains. In the cannabis sector, there are three retail stores open in the community and a couple more that have applied for licenses. When we were going through the initial process, we made sure our bylaws matched our community sentiment and it’s worked out well for us.
“Energy and extraction is another growing industry. We have some great synergies with companies there that are looking to provide value-added services to that sector. We know that will change with society, but we also know that fossil fuels will be the number one economic driver for Alberta for the next 50 years before everything changes over. So we have to make sure that we’ll also be able to support those services. Stony Plain has quite a few companies that are doing painting and pipeline coating and tank maintenance technology for the resource sector, such as Barrier Coating and RK Enterprises.
“I believe in working better to preserve our environment and our climate because we only have one world to live in but we also have to be realistic about what drives the economy right now. There has to be a balance of nurturing the new emerging technologies that will support us in the future but also maintaining what we have now that’s providing those dollars so we can invest into the future.”
BVM: Does the Town have housing inventory to meet increasing demand?
Choy: “We’ve had huge housing spurts. Last year, we had over 240 housing starts; quite a few were high density. We’re looking at densifying our population as well to stop the urban sprawl; making sure we can provide efficient and better services, and we’re more densified versus having a sprawl mentality. We also have an aging population in the community. We have always been a farming hub for many farmers that come to do commerce, so as they retire they’re coming into Stony Plain. We have a care facility as well as two private companies that are building residences for seniors. One is in partnership with us for the library – it will be located on the main floor and there will be five storeys of seniors living above. In addition, the Meridian Housing Foundation is building a 55-plus for seniors with 63 units; right now they have a waiting list of 150 people. And another project is being built along the highway with 87 units, so that will help out with the huge demand in that market.
“Environmental sustainability is one of our key pillars. When new subdivisions come, we make sure we maintain tree stands and build within the natural topography. At our Heritage Park Pavilion we have four big silos to catch all the rainwater off the roof. Then our trucks drain the water for non-potable use, such as watering the grass and flowers. Recycled water is better than using treated water and we allow businesses and developers to use it as well.”
BVM: What are the main objectives for the next five years?
Choy: “In our 2020 Corporate Plan, Council approved public transit to start this September, so now we’re consulting with our residents to see what’s the best route to go; if they want Park & Ride or a loop to Spruce Grove which has commuter service to Edmonton. Council is also part of the Regional Transit Service Commission which is looking at commuter services throughout the Edmonton region (13 municipalities) to start in 2022. When that starts, we’ll have a direct commuter bus from Edmonton to Stony Plain. That way, our residents will be able to travel to the Capital Region as speedily as possible.
“Hopefully, in the next five years, we’ll have a new recreation center built and more subdivisions coming up and also some business development along the recreational corridors. We’d also like to have one or two more schools to support our youth. And we’ll be focusing on the environmental pillars to make sure we have storm management ponds to deal with the fluctuations in weather patterns we’re having. That involves planning and preparation to ensure our residents are safe.
“Most importantly, Stony Plain is progressive, we’re friendly, and we’re rooted in tradition. We always have to remember where we came from, so we can be the best community as we can, going forward.”