Town starts annexation process
Okotoks: Wind Walk included in town's annexation plan
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 02, 2013 06:00 am
Okotoks council took the first step towards annexing enough land from the MD of Foothills to accommodate tripling the town’s population over the next six decades.
Councillors voted to initiate the process of annexing more than 1,000 hectares of land from the MD of Foothills for future development within Okotoks over the next 60 years. If approved, Okotoks could expand the area it covers by almost 50 per cent and provide enough room for an estimated population of more than 82,000 by 2073.
Coun. Matt Rockley called it a step forward for helping the Town manage growth.
“By moving forward with annexing additional land into the jurisdiction of Okotoks, now we can plan and manage the future growth of our community efficiently and in a way that complements the existing town,” said Rockley, who first pushed for council to start the annexation process in early 2012.
The Town is applying to annex land on almost all sides, extending its borders south of Highway 7 and to the west, and to the northeast as far as Highway 2. The area eyed for annexation includes the Wind Walk, Gold Medal and Sandstone Springs developments on Okotoks’ south and west sides. Much of the land to the northeast is currently agricultural, while land along Highway 7 to the southeast is eyed for commercial and industrial development.
The area identified for annexation was recommended in a growth study commissioned by the Town.
According to the study, Okotoks will need 1,188 hectares of land to accommodate growth over the next 60 years. The report states 745 hectares will be needed for residential development, 85 hectares for commercial growth and 112 hectares for industrial development and additional land for schools and community spaces.
The Town could face some opposition from the MD over its annexation plan.
Foothills Reeve Larry Spilak said the MD’s position has long been it would oppose any attempts to annex land south of Highway 7.
“We’ve always stated there’s plenty of land north, there’s plenty of land east to grow,” he said. “We were hopeful that’s what they would choose and this annexation would be very simple to complete.”
Spilak said annexing enough land for 60 years of growth amounts to a land grab and a 30-year horizon would’ve been sufficient.
“Personally, I don’t think you can plan out 60 years,” he said. “How could you plan 60 years of water and wastewater, things of this nature, all the services.”
Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson countered the 60 year timeframe provides the Town with enough room to plan for growth well in to the future
“We need to be looking 60 years out,” he said.
Robertson said it’s too early to say whether the annexation will end up being contested, but he’s optimistic it will go smoothly.
He said the annexation will be easiest when the Town, the MD and owners of individual landowners can agree on the proposal.
“If you have all three parties on board that’s a very smooth one, two out of three is still likely to be successful, but it could be protracted,” he said. “If you only have one of the three, of course it’s probably not going to be successful.”
Okotoks’ community planner Steve Hanhart said it’s difficult to say how long the annexation process could take to complete.
“It doesn’t have a specified process time, it all depends on discussion, feedback and those types of things,” he said. “It’s not a quick turn around.”
Hanhart said the Town first needs to provide notice of its intention to annex land and is then required to consult with landowners, the MD and host public meetings on the annexation. Depending on the outcome, he said the Town could either change its annexation notice or proceed.
If the annexation is not contested, it would go directly to the Municipal Affairs minister for approval. If the Town’s annexation is contested, the matter will go in front of a public hearing at the Municipal Government Board.
One developer facing the possibility of having his land annexed into the Town said it’s too early to say whether he will support the move.
Gold Medal developer John Fraser he has invested a lot of time and money in the project and he needs to decide what would be best for his project.
“We’re evaluating what possible implications there would be, either positive or negative,” he said.
The Gold Medal commercial development is at the site of the Country Living Depot just south of Okotoks at the intersection of Highway 7 and Dump Road.
MD council has approved an area structure plan for the development. Okotoks has offered to provide sewer services, but the development does not have a water supply yet. A proposal by the MD and the developers of the neighbouring Wind Walk community to build a pipeline from the Highwood River along Okotoks’ south boundary would also provide water to Fraser’s development, if approved.