Landowners want community plan passed
High River: Proposed Spitzee Crossing to be built in northwest part of town
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 04, 2013 06:00 am
An Okotoks resident, who is part of a group looking to develop new communities in High River’s northwest corner, said he hopes a proposal in the works for nine years can be approved before the municipal election in October.
Okotokian Warren Webber said the development has taken on new significance since June’s flood. He said it could potentially be a location for High River residents who choose to be relocated due to their homes being designated in floodway by the province after the June 20 flood.
“The entire area, except for a little bit on the south side close to the river, was high and dry,” said Warren Webber, part of a group behind the proposed Spitzee Crossing development. “Here is a town that is trying to rebuild and there is a ready solution on the northwest.”
The Province has offered to pay the taxed-assessed value for homes deemed to be in the floodway. It is not prepared to offer financial assistance to homes considered in floodway in the event of another flood.
A draft area structure Plan (ASP) for the development was shown at a High River town council committee of the whole meeting on Aug 22.
If approved, Spitzee Crossing could potentially almost double the size of the town’s pre-flood population of almost 13,000.
The community would wrap around the town’s northwest corner along Coal Trail covering approximately 700 acres of property and could potentially have 12,000 residents. In addition to significant space for residential development, the plan included room for light industrial businesses.
The annexation of the land from the MD of Foothills to High River was approved in January of 2012 and Longview Planning and Design out of Calgary submitted the area structure plan to the Town in April of 2013.
It’s been a long process to get the development to this point and Webber said he hopes the ASP will get council’s approval.
“I have been at this since April of 2004 and the other six landowners came in during 2006,” said Webber after a High River town council meeting of the whole Aug. 22. “We worked as a unit to get a community area structure plan done after the annexation which is what we have come up with.”
Ian Fawcett, High River’s senior planner, said there are still some concerns with the area structure plan, including not having enough schools, the need for more small recreation parks, having light industrial use in the area and storm pond issues.
However, in an interview after the meeting, Fawcett said the issues could be resolved and it is possible the area structure plan could be approved before the municipal election on Oct. 21.
“That is the direction we are looking at,” he said. “It is possible.”
It is scheduled to go to High River town council for first reading on Sept. 9.
High River Coun. Betty Hiebert said she would like to see the plan dealt with sooner than later.
The Spitzee Crossing issue has been before council for all six years she has been in office.
During the committee of the whole meeting, Hiebert suggested getting the approval done and working on the next step.
“We are kicking up dust we have been dragging our feet for so long,” Hiebert said.
High River manager of planning, Khalid Muhammad, said in an interview administration has not been dawdling with the area structure plan.
He said the Town received the document from Longview Planning and Design in April.
“Once the annexation application went through, effective January 2012, they could have submitted this,” he said. “This ASP was only produced in April. Then we had two months before the flood… Still we have been able to get progress.”
He added it typically takes between six months and two years to approve an area structure plan.
Kristi Beunder of Longview Planning and Design said she has been working on the project since 2006.
“Our hope is to get this done by Oct. 1,” she said. “This council has the history on the annexation, this council has attended our open house.
“This council has heard us talk about the issue, this council has listened to the residents.
“We don’t want to lose that continuity.”
Beunder added she has dealt with three different full-time town administrators since 2006 as well as three different heads of planning in High River.
Webber estimated the landowners have spent approximately $500,000 on the project to date.