Saskatoon city councillors are asking the city administration to step up their timelines on considering a self-sustainable neighbourhood.
Arbutus Properties is proposing the “Solair” development on the southeast edge of Saskatoon, billing it as the largest green neighbourhood project in Canada.
The $1 billion project would see 2,200 homes on the Franko lands near the Meadows development, with each house boasting a solar-panel roof instead of the traditional shingles.
Arbutus president Jeff Drexel said they would own the roofs, rather than the homeowner, and use the 15 megawatts of electricity produced by the solar panels as a utility to power the community.
“The big thing is we’ll be fixing energy costs for all the homeowners in Solair, which will really insulate them from rises in energy costs,” he said.
He noted the project could reduce carbon emissions by 450,000 metric tonnes.
Councillors on the planning, development and community services committee expressed support for the concept after Drexel’s presentation Tuesday morning.
“This is something that’s completely out of the box, and I know we’d be a world leader if we can pull it off,” Coun. Troy Davies said.
Coun. Zach Jeffries said the community could become a “showpiece” for the city to show off to people visiting Saskatoon in the future.
“There’s certainly something that goes beyond what we’ve seen before when it comes to development,” he said.
“It aligns pretty well with some of the goals we have.”
The issue for city administration is the Franko lands rest on Saskatoon’s current city limits, with part of the proposed project going beyond the boundaries.
Saskatoon is already planning to annex land from the R.M. of Corman Park up to a proposed perimeter freeway on the east side, which would encompass the land for the Solair community.
However, general manager of community services Randy Grauer told councillors they weren’t planning on looking at the project until the annexation was complete — which could take well into 2020.
“It’s a very complicated process,” he told the committee.
Drexel told councillors Arbutus was hoping to gather technical support from administration in the coming months, so they can have the concept of their plan approved in early 2019.
“It worries me a lot that administration seems pretty shaped in terms of their policy,” Drexel said after the meeting.
“We need to do more to change the way development is done, and improve our living standards and really build upon our eco-development.”
Councillors on the committee agreed with Drexel that the project should be given more priority.
They voted unanimously on a motion to call on administration to meet with Arbutus to offer technical expertise support on planning for the potential solar community, and for a report to come back in January on the feasibility of the project.