Virtual town hall held for northeast area structure plan

·4 min read

“Success,” said Benjamin Franklin, “is the residue of planning.”

The saying is doubly important for determining how to best use land in a municipality, since deciding what can be developed where sets the course for how a town will grow.

Of course, no municipal development would be complete without input from its residents, which is why Pincher Creek held an online town hall meeting April 8 to discuss the recently completed draft of the northeast area structure plan.

“An area structure plan is a high-level planning document that outlines future development direction, with reference to municipal policies and objectives,” said Brad Schmidtke, office leader and development officer with Stantec, the company that completed the area plan for the town.

An entirely tentative document, the area plan takes into account other plans like the municipal development plan and the recreation master plan to offer potential uses of the large portion of land in the town’s northeast, directly behind Walmart.

Creating an additional entrance into the community with a bypass connecting Highway 6 to Highway 3 is one aspect of the plan, along with different land zoning suggestions.

The plan suggests designating multiple properties as highway/drive-in commercial, comprehensive/shopping mall commercial or light industrial. The zoning would permit business developments such as auto-body and paint shops, offices, drive-in restaurants and construction trade shops.

The area plan also suggests the majority of the land be set aside as parks and open space as the existing stormwater wetland area is not ideal for building foundations. The area could instead be used for pathways and benches, sporting fields and recreation facilities.

Despite lots of discussions surrounding the town building a new curling rink and hockey arena, organizers of the town hall stressed the area plan only suggests potential projects and development.

“We wanted to throw this right out there: does this mean we’re getting a new recreation centre in this space? No, there’s no current plan to move the recreation centre,” said Marie Everts, Pincher Creek’s economic development officer.

“The area structure plan does not prescribe what facilities will be built within the area — it’s meant to provide a vision for the area.”

While recreation facilities are included in the area plan, Ms. Everts pointed out that a project as big as building a new rink would require significant planning, public input, budgeting, and ultimately approval by town council.

Part of the logic in designating so much space to parks, added chief administrative officer Laurie Wilgosh, was the flexibility open space zoning gives to future development not necessarily classified as recreation.

“If we had a big company come in and need more land for development, we’d certainly welcome that opportunity, and it would probably use up a portion of that area,” she said.

An important function of the area structure plan is helping the town plan for infrastructure that would be required to service development, like utilities, roadways and sewers.

“We’re getting regular inquiries from companies looking for land, and we need to be prepared and ready for them when they come calling and we find a good fit. It’s a big part of why we’ve been anxious to get this plan in place so that we’re ready for any future development that’s coming,” CAO Wilgosh said.

Having a good area plan, said Ms. Everts, was a win-win for the town and for interested investors and private businesses.

“A well-done area structure plan needs to be attractive to investors and developers, and will help us diversify our tax base, and of course provide good quality of life and amenities for our community,” she said. “This is all part and parcel of the growth plan.”

“As we see more inquiries for investment in our community and private businesses coming into our community — which is very busy right now, and I’m always pleased to share that we are busy with businesses looking at our community for investment — we need to continue looking forward, and this is all part of that process,” Ms. Everts concluded.

A copy of the slide presentation, as well as a recording of the town hall event and online public survey, is available online at bit.ly/PC_NE-asp.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze