Municipal development plan almost complete

Two years in the making, Ponoka’s municipal development plan (MDP) is almost complete.

Two years in the making, Ponoka’s municipal development plan (MDP) is almost complete.

Every community larger than 3,500 people is required to provide a MDP, explained committee chairman Coun. Izak van der Westhuizen.

The process is also fairly lengthy as the plan provides short- and long-term directions for the Town of Ponoka. The MDP steering committee is reviewing the plan and wants public input from residents in March.

“It’ll probably be twofold,” said van der Westuizen.

One way is through a public feedback at Coffee with Council meetings as well as being available for review at Ponoka Town Hall. The other is advertising in the newspaper to inform residents of the draft.

“It gives you some information about population trends and projections,” explained van der Westhuizen.

There are 13 sections in the MDP:

• Introduction and purpose of the MDP.

• Population trends and projections.

• Economic base looks at the different economies in town.

• Residential land use, such as the types of homes and forecast for housing.

• Commercial land use downtown and highway commercial business.

• Industrial land use in the northwest and southwest industrial parks.

• Recreation, parks, schools and culture.

• Transportation, utilities and environmental services such as sewage treatment and storm sewers.

• Institutional buildings such as government use and churches.

• Health, safety and protective services, which includes senior citizen accommodation.

• Regional planning and co-operation.

• Implementation for plans and bylaws and finance capabilities and budget.

• Results of key person interviews.

The document is more than 50 pages and will set the tone for the Ponoka for future years; an up-to-date MDP also helps with funding and is “looked at favourably when it comes to provincial granting.”

A consulting firm will review the plan to ensure there are no errors in the document. Councillors decided not to spend the money on a consultant; van der Westhuizen feels it could cost $70,000 to $80,000.

“Council just felt the cost of re-inventing the wheel was definitely more than what we will get value out of and who better to ask than the people that live in the community?” he said. “We hope to spend a fraction of that.”

The steering committee comprises town staff, councillors and some residents who have used the 1997 plan as a template. Planning and development officer Betty Jurykoski takes decisions from those meetings and updates the document to keep it current.

He feels it is advisable to have a consulting company draft a new MDP if there is a dramatic change in the demographics of the town. “Dramatic as in, unexpected substantial growth or if you had significant change…as a result of annexation.”

The town has annexed some land for development but there has not yet been significant growth there.

With three council members involved in the planning, van der Westhuizen feels the MDP should be completed before the election in October. “You can’t really carry this through an election.”

The biggest challenge has been ensuring those on the committee can meet at a regular time. “They are all busy with their day-to-day stuff.”

Members are committed however and van der Westhuizen appreciates their commitment. Jurykoski and secretary Heather Walker have put in countless hours with this project. “They should be commended.”

The review of the MDP is almost complete and residents should see more information in March.