Future commercial development in the Highway 2 corridor is inevitable and Ponoka County wants to be ready for it.
Consulting planner Bob Riddett presented a draft of proposed policies for the county Aug. 12 for five intersections: Secondary Highway 605 intersection north of the Lacombe County line, Matejka Road, Highway 53, Menaik Road and Secondary Highway 611 south of the County of Wetaskiwin border.
“You can be looking at commercial and industrial uses here,” said Riddett.
His report shows traffic in the corridor has steadily increased to 26,100 vehicles a day in 2012 compared to 18,880 per day in 2003. Industrial businesses could benefit from being close to the highway with exposure and no seasonal road bans.
Development in the corridor must meet provincial requirements such as proximity to oil and gas operations, waste disposal and sewer lagoons.
“Traffic of course is going to be the big issue here,” explained Riddett.
Cost to developers is going to be high to upgrade roads and intersections, and engineers will have to ensure proper construction. The county will also have to test for water in these locations but Riddett does not think there are any issues with water.
“The real question is, is this going to be paid for the taxpayers as a general benefit or is it going to be built by the developer of these individual sites?” Riddett asked.
“We do it on a tax invoice basis,” replied CAO Charlie Cutforth.
“Frankly the taxes that are generated by those businesses will pay for that pavement within 10 years,” he added. “We always thought they should get something for the taxes they’ve been paying because they pay plenty.”
Protecting the right to farm is an important factor in the draft document. If there are conflicts with other land uses, a farmer has the right to continue cultivating the land as long as they wish. Industrial and commercial development are secondary in this case. “All the land would retain its agricultural zoning until the owner did an area structure plan that was acceptable to yourselves and transportation and to the neighbours”
Zoning and development would be next.
Riddett designed an imaginary layout of what development could look like at one of these intersections.
He gives allowance for businesses that would benefit from having highway frontage, regular industrial area and areas for unattractive industries such as a scrap yard or a kennel. He suggests trees in the area would make the land more presentable.
“There are some things, which you need but the neighbours don’t like,” added Riddett.
The proposal also allows for a residential mixed use. Riddett used an extract from Camrose County’s land use bylaw allowing large lot single housing and secondary use such as small workshops and the storage of goods.
“We’ve got quite a lot of them in the county,” said Cutforth.
He asked for clarification on the bylaw as the county deals with mixed residential use. Cutforth wanted council to know how they could manage mixed use without compromising the aesthetics of aproperty.
“It really looks residential when you look down the road, and I think that’s the test,” said Riddett.
In cases of potential abuse where the land looks more like an industrial yard there are ways the development officer can work with landowners. “We can tighten the rules slightly.”
Permitted uses are new homes, home offices, public parks and recreation and utility structures servicing the area. There are discretionary uses for light industrial such as small workshops and the storage of goods and vehicles. Machinery, equipment and extensive agriculture are also considered discretionary.
The uses must be secondary to the main residential lot. “I think the guidance for the development officer is there,” said Riddett.
Reeve Gord Svenningsen asked what Lacombe County plans for Secondary Highway 605. Riddett said Lacombe County is looking at recreational residential area. He suggests the county would need to be more strict with screening as development should not interfere with Wolf Creek Golf Course and Lacombe County.
Council decided to wait for a response from Alberta Transportation before hosting an open house for landowners. Riddett will send the draft to the department as an unofficial draft to see how the document aligns with the province’s plans.