A full crowd fills the Ponoka County chambers Aug. 29 during a public meeting that outlines a proposed area structure plan for development in the Highway 2 corridor. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

Ponoka County residents displeased with proposed Highway 604 plan

The area structure plan sets out construction guidelines for future development

Almost 50 Ponoka County residents took in a meeting that proposes what future development will look like along the Highway 2 corridor.

The public meeting was held Aug. 29 in the county’s council chambers with consultant Bob Riddett outlining how the proposed area structure plan will look.

The areas it considers relate to the intersections along Highway 2 and include Secondary Highway 604, Matejka Road and Highway 53.

“The first part of the document talks about constraints on development,” explained Riddett pointing out that mainly affects construction constraints.

The plan not only looks at existing zoning but future zoning for industrial and commercial use.

It considers the southern portion of the area — which is closer to the Lacombe County border — for industrial use but not commercial, said Riddett. The main reason for that is because of feedback from residents and municipalities wanting to keep the area relatively clear and clean.

“We’re not going to get a sort of Gasoline Alley effect down there,” said Riddett.

Access would be at Range Road 263 and the intersection of Secondary Highway 604, he offered.

However, a traffic impact assessment is not yet complete, says Riddett, adding that he feels the range road will need to be rebuilt to a higher standard as well as being paved to accommodate the extra traffic. This is something that would happen as development occurs and is estimated at $3 million.

“Any industrial development here would have paved access,” said Riddett.

Ponoka County commissioned a general groundwater study for the area. “Basically what they’re telling us is there is ample water,” said Riddett of the findings.

Some residents concerned with development

Before residents voiced their concerns CAO Charlie Cutforth pointed out that the county is required by Alberta Transportation to have an area structure plan in place when development applications come in.

He reiterated that the reason for the plan in the first place was that when the county dealt with applications for development on the highway, Alberta Transport would ask for an area structure plan.

Cutforth pointed out that development north of Highway 53 was mostly piecemeal. “A lot of counties wished QEII ran through them because there’s a lot of potential to diversify the tax base.”

County resident Tony Hoffman is a property owner in the area west of the Don Laing area. He suggested a buffer be created in the plan that helps reduce noise for residents.

Hoffman suggested keeping the natural vegetation in the area and Riddett, who agreed with the idea of a buffer, added if there’s not enough vegetation a berm would work.

Cutforth added that identifying in the ASP a specific drawing with a buffer would help reduce confusion and concerns for development.

“If we write it into the document as a principle then at least we have a way to protect the neighbours,” added Riddett.

One woman was concerned about development and the worry of cars driving at high speeds.

She says with the gravel pit close by it becomes a worry and then she feels there will be a loss of wildlife. She spoke passionately. “We don’t want that development.”

Riddett feels the biggest issue for residents appears to be noise. He advised people email him with suggestions or thoughts to deal with the concerns.

County resident Jim Lysons feels the Matejka overpass is better to spur on development at Secondary Highway 604. He feels the visibility on Matejka Road is better than 604 and wondered why there isn’t more of a push for development there.

“It’s not clear to me why the Matejka overpass area is not used,” said Lysons. He feels that will also improve access to the gravel pits.

Lysons doesn’t feel residents have been given the full information related to these types of developments. “Promises have been made in the past and they haven’t been kept.”

He was also concerned that all of council wasn’t at the meeting to which those in the gallery applauded. Coun. Mark Matejka was the only councillor in attendance and this development affects his area.

Cutforth spoke up and appeared upset with the questioning. “This isn’t a political forum.”

He added that the county has been open about its development and that the intersections on QEII are in high demand for industry.

Lysons responded that the area structure plan shows no potential tax revenue and that councillors other than Matejka should be at the meeting.

Matejka asked if the county has had any requests for development on Matejka Road and Cutforth replied that it hasn’t happened. Demand has been at the Secondary Highway 604 area.

Matejka suggested the county is responding to demand for development in the area. Cutforth added that the intention is that as development occurs, road improvements will occur.

Resident Karen Douglass is concerned about the large trucks in the area and with industrial development, that will increase. There have been many times of near misses with large trucks at the Matejka intersection, said Douglass.

When it boils down to it, affected residents do not want to see development there at all, said another county resident.

Matejka pointed out that Wolf Creek Golf Course and Lacombe County both have plans for the area. Development could occur regardless of what Ponoka County residents want, said Matejka.

He suggests having a plan is a positive thing and that there still needs to be a buyer and seller.

The county is waiting on a traffic impact assessment before a request to council for approval is sent.

This request may come to council’s Sept. 26 meeting before the next election but the request for a decision may be tabled until the next council is voted in.

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