Okotoks growth plan on table
Okotoks: Annexation plans presented at open house
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013 06:00 am
A glimpse of Okotoks in the year 2073 emerged last week, showing a community of as many as 82,000 people, living in a more densely developed subdivisions stretching from Big Rock Trail to Highway 2.
Details of Okotoks’ plans to annex land on nearly all sides were unveiled at the first of three public meetings planned by the Town at Foothills Composite High School on Dec. 11.
As Okotoks grows, the Town’s community planner said the environmental principles guiding development in the community for more than a decade will continue to be followed.
“We would be maintaining a lot of the sustainability principles that we’ve built our community on since 1998,” said Steve Hanhart. “We’ll build on those water conservation initiatives and all those things.”
There are 111 separate parcels of land on more than 1,000 hectares in the MD of Foothills eyed for annexation by Okotoks.
Residential development is envisioned for lands to the northeast and southwest, while the Town proposes commercial/industrial development along Highway 7 to the southeast.
New residential developments in annexed areas will likely be built to a higher density than what currently exists. Densities in most Okotoks neighbourhoods range between 5.5 to six units per acre, but Hanhart said this could increase to eight units per acre in most new areas. New developments will still have traditional single-family style housing, but there will likely be more row houses and apartments, he said.
A new road is proposed along 330 Avenue, stretching between Highway 2A and 48 Street, through what is largely open farmland north of town right now. He said a new interchange would be needed at 338 Avenue and Highway 2 as more people access the highway at the location. As well, he said Highway 2A may need to be expanded to three lanes each way as the Town grows.
A new water reservoir is proposed on the northern edge of the area eyed for annexation. He said it would be connected to a pipeline from the north.
The Town is also looking to annex the Sandstone Springs and Wind Walk developments. Sandstone Springs is proposed along Big Rock Trail west of town, and Wind Walk is planned just south of town at the intersection of Highway 7 and Southridge Drive. If the Town annexes the developments, Hanhart said the existing area structure plans for the projects would remain in place. However, if they were inside Okotoks’ boundaries, he said there could be an opportunity to review the plans to increase the density in both communities.
“We’re shifting to higher densities than we’ve done in the past and Wind Walk is lower density than what was done in the past,” said Hanhart.
Several MD residents at the meeting said they weren’t opposed to the Town annexing their properties, but they also aren’t in a rush to see new developments expanding into what is currently rural countryside.
MD resident Chris McFarlane said he’s not opposed to the annexation, but he’s not eager to see development creeping his way for at least a decade.
“If I can last another 10 years I’ll be happy… That’s where it is for me, because my kids will be grown up and in university,” he said. “For now, I like the elbow room.”
McFarlane’s home north of Okotoks is within the 60-year growth horizon envisioned by the Town, but he said he thinks it will be developed sooner than that.
Many want more information about how their homes will be affected.
Shawna and Travis Whitlock’s main question is what is the Town’s timeline for development.
“Do we have 10 years, do we have 20 years,” said Shawna.
The couple moved to a home just outside the Town’s north boundary a year ago.
While annexation could mean they’ll become Okotoks residents, Travis said they won’t benefit from Town services.
SheHe or She? Sounds like it should be Travis. said they expected the Town would grow and their property could be annexed someday, but not so soon.
Gina Matzner knew the day would come. She lives on what was once Max Bell’s home quarter section, just outside Okotoks’ west boundary on Big Rock Trail.
She said she supports annexation and hopes the process won’t be drawn out.
“As soon as possible,” she said. “The property is for sale, it’s being looked at by a developer.”
Matzner said it’s an appropriate site for residential development as it’s right next to Big Rock Trail and the Sheep River subdivision in town.
Hanhart said the Town hasn’t set a timeframe for when it hopes the annexation will be complete. He said it will probably take at least a year, but it’s difficult to confirm a timeline.
“The timeline is dependent in some part on the feedback we receive,” he said.
Hanhart said the Town is facing challenges with a short supply of land for residential development, and it’s hoped the annexation process won’t be drawn out.
He said the Town has begun annexation discussions with the MD of Foothills, and a negotiating committee comprised of members of both councils has been formed. As well, the Town will meet with landowners in the coming months.
Additional open houses are planned in February and April.