Wind Walk developers wait for province to approve water plan
Foothills: MD Reeve says approval one of few remaining hurdles for project
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Friday, Jun 13, 2014 06:13 pm
It has taken six years so far, but the Mike Holmes–lead Wind Walk development is inching closer to reality.
The project’s developers, Holmes Communities and Alberta Foothills Properties, have acquired a water licence to take water from the Highwood River to serve the community.
They are now awaiting approval from the provincial government on a plan to hand the water licence over the MD, and to build water treatment plant in Aldersyde and a water pipeline from the Highwood River.
MD of Foothills Reeve Larry Spilak said provincial approval is one of the last hurdles left before council can give the development the green light.
“It’s the last condition, it is the primary condition that would push the development forward,” he said.
Located on a 135-acre site just outside Okotoks’ south boundary by the intersection of Highway 7 and Southridge Drive, the proposed environmentally friendly community would include 458 homes and 80,300 square feet of commercial space and would be built out over three phases.
It’s been a long process for the MD and Wind Walk’s developers. The project was first proposed in 2008, plans for the community were submitted to the MD in 2009 and MD council approved an area structure plan (ASP) for the development in 2010. Most recently, MD councillors approved a list of 15 amendments to the community’s ASP last, a decision Spilak characterized mainly as “paperwork.”
Wind Walk has also been the subject of a long-running dispute between the MD and the Town of Okotoks, which has unsuccessfully challenged the project to the provincial Municipal Government Board, and a court challenge that went to the doorstep of the Supreme Court, which refused to hear an appeal by the Town last year.
Harry Harker, Manger of CitySpaces Consulting, a planning consultant hired by Wind Walk’s developer, said a number of things have changed since the original development plan was submitted to the MD.
Initially, developers planned to use groundwater to serve the community. After concerns were raised by the Town of Okotoks and area residents about the impact the development would have on groundwater supplies in the area, MD council required a pipeline be built for its second and third phases.
When the provincial government turned down the developer’s application for a groundwater licence at the site, it began working on a new water plan for the site and acquired the water licence.
The license allows 170 acre feet of water, more than 55 million gallons, of water to be taken from the Highwood River each year.
Harker, the former High River town manager, said this will be more than enough to supply the Wind Walk development, leaving some left over for the MD to provide to other users in the area.
Wind Walk’s developers have now applied to the provincial government to hand the licence over to the MD and to build a water treatment facility in Aldersyde.
Under the developer’s plan, water would be taken from the Highwood River east of Aldersyde and treated wastewater would go back into the river at the same location. A water treatment plant and wastewater plant would be built at the MD’s Aldersyde public works yard. A water pipeline would be built along 402 Ave, one mile south of Highway 7, to serve the Foothills-Okotoks Regional Field House and Wind Walk. It would then run along Highway 7 to serve the Gold Medal and Sandstone springs developments.
The developer will cover all costs associated with the water plan and hand the system over to the MD to own and operate.
“It’s our water and we’re giving it to the MD,” said Harker.
He said they are waiting to hear whether the provincial government will approve their water and wastewater plans.
Wind Walk’s developers aren’t saying how much they paid for the water licence. However, they did confirm the entire water plan will cost in excess of $30 million, all of which will be covered by the developer.
Depending on the final provincial decision, Harker said they hope to be able to break ground on the development in spring 2015.
“It’s not as optimistic as we’d like it to be, but I think it’s realistic,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Town of Okotoks continues to have concerns about the development.
The Town of Okotoks has asked the MD postpone its decision on Wind Walk until after Okotoks’ annexation application is completed and submitted to the provincial government this fall.
“We feel it’s in the best interests of our region to wait,” Okotoks Coun. Tanya Thorne told MD councillors on June 12.
She the Town has dropped its former population cap since the Wind Walk development was first proposed and land along the Highway 7 corridor is an important part of its growth plans.
Okotoks community planner Steve Hanhart said the Town is looking at a pipeline to Calgary to serve the community and the region. He said building a pipeline from the Highwood isn’t a good use of public or developer’s money and would end up duplicating services.
Spilak said the project has faced many delays, many of which were caused by the Town of Okotoks, and the MD doesn’t want to wait any longer.
As for a pipeline from Calgary, he said it wouldn’t benefit the MD, because the city won’t provide water to developments with densities lower than eight to 10 units per acre.
“We’re not interested in doing development that has those types of densities,” he said.
On the other hand, he said the plan proposed by Wind Walk’s developers would significantly benefit the MD.