Community engagement for Wheatland County’s municipal development plan (MDP) update is ongoing, including two online engagement sessions and an online survey open until Nov. 30.
The second engagement session, held on Oct. 21, focused on managing growth, infrastructure and servicing throughout the county.
The session focused on many areas, but one of the primary ones was how and where growth should occur in the county, for residential, commercial and industrial development.
The county currently has two areas with area structure plans for commercial and industrial development: the Highway 1 area, located from Strathmore’s west end to the border with Rocky View County, and Goldfinch, located near Carseland. Currently, the MDP directs new industrial (and major commercial) developments to these areas.
But it is not always easy. Under the existing MDP, anyone looking to develop an industrial operation is required to self-service, meaning they are responsible for the development of servicing infrastructure, rather than the county.
“That increases costs for developers, so that’s difficult,” said Matthew Boscariol, Wheatland County’s general manager of community and development services.
Through the engagement work, the county is asking ratepayers ways the county could incentivize development to these areas. One way would be to provide servicing for development in these areas, which would require capital spending. The engagement process gives ratepayers a chance to say whether they would agree with this approach.
“If we hear that ratepayers understand the pros and cons of industrial developments in areas, then we’re able to prioritize those capital expenditures, so we’re looking at the cost of servicing industrial development,” said Boscariol. “By virtue of getting that into our municipal development plan, by virtue of getting that into policy, we would know where to prioritize our capital expenditures.”
“With careful analysis and strategic investment, we will see areas like (the Highway 1 area) built out, which indirectly support all of the programs and all of the services that the county is trying to deliver in the most cost effective manner,” said Amber Link, Wheatland County reeve. “Then, a concurrent effect of that is by diversifying and increasing the tax base; the whole thing is just synergistic.”
Another major question asked in the session is whether residential developments should be kept within existing communities in Wheatland County. The current policy encourages new development to occur within hamlets and urban areas to take advantage of existing infrastructure, which makes servicing more cost effective. “One of the main concerns that the county has surrounding residential development is how to service it, and its compatibility with existing uses,” said Link.
The policies of the MDP seek to guide development toward existing communities, thereby minimizing encroachment on agricultural lands and lessening the impact of residential developments on natural areas.
The county is seeking ratepayer input as to how to promote hamlet growth and expansion, whether hamlet development should be encouraged, and if it has supported the development and promotion of affordable and diverse housing types to accommodate all stages of life.
An online survey to garner ratepayer input is available on the county’s website (wheatlandcounty.ca/mdp) until Nov. 30. After that, the county will compile all feedback and share the results with council, which will work with administration towards drafting an interim updated MDP.
Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times