By J.W. Schnarr
The winds of change appear to be blowing across several lot development plans in town… again.
During their regular meeting on Feb. 2, Vauxhall council discussed lot developments located at Fireman’s Park and on Fourth Street North.
After months of discussion and an open house regarding the future of Fireman’s Park, council appears to be shifting the development lens back toward Fourth Street.
Deputy Mayor Richard Phillips said there was no need to rush the development of property at Fireman’s Park, as there are other developments in town still to be finished.
“Why would we go and tear up the park when we could go ahead and get Fourth Street developed?” he asked.
Council was informed by administration that the previous council viewed the Fireman’s Park area as a priority and ceased development of Fourth Street.
Phillips said while he was unsure of the appetite for land development in the area, it would make more sense to develop an area which would result in more lots if that was the goal of the town.
“You could do the Fifth Avenue extension and develop the south side of Fifth Avenue, as opposed to wrecking a park to gain two lots,’ he said.
Cris Burns, chief administrative officer, said in the nine years he has worked with the town he has seen the same developments come up again and again as councils of the day shifted directions, and that moving back to the Fourth Street development was the right way to go, in his opinion.
“All of these lots have come full circle,” he said. “A lot of dead horses have been whipped. Council is going back to where it started. And that’s the best location. It’s ready to go.”
Brunner said the Fourth Street development has been looked at for different plans since the 1970s.
The Fireman’s Park development has also been under the gave of development for a long time.
“The (Fireman’s Park) subdivision was registered in 1971,” said Bonnie Brunner, a planner with the Oldman River Regional Services Commission. “It was simply a parcel of land that happened to be developed as a park. I don’t have the history on how that park was developed… it is not municipal reserve.”
This means there is no formal disposal process needed should the town move ahead with developing the lot as park.
An issue with the property is that it would not meet the minimum requirements for lot sizes as it now stands. The south end of the property is currently too narrow. This could be fixed by extending the property line into the canal right of way, which runs along the west side, something the town could accomplish as they own the right of way.
“Under its current configuration, we would not meet the minimum length requirement,” said Brunner.
At the last open house, there was discussion of development to the west, with residents talking about larger lot sizes being ideal for purchase. In other areas, longer, narrow lots were purchased in pairs by many residents and then consolidated into larger properties.
Brunner said considerations with subdivision include costs incurred, including the location of sewer and water access which runs on the east side of Second Street North.
“It means you’d have to rip up the entire road to service,” said Brunner.
“We’re not exactly sure of the sewer line is to the south, and that could alter the configuration of any lots created out there,” she said.
Another concern has to do with the existing regulations and policies. The town’s general municipal plan has identified the area as a tot lot, and the old plan had considered expanding the tot lot to the south. Brunner said the elimination of the canal allows for Fifth Avenue North to carry on as a connector to Second Street North, rendering the idea of expansion of the tot lot into that area obsolete.
Finally, Brunner said the general municipal plan outlines a guideline for the number of serviced lots a municipality should have available at any given time.
“There’s a policy that recommends a three-year supply of services residential lots,” she said.
Another option being looked at is the idea the area could be divided into two lots instead of three. Brunner said two lots would be substantially larger than most of the lots within the municipality. Brunner said it would be useful to look at the cost of relocating Fireman’s Park and see if two lots would be economically viable.
With the release of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, municipalities must look to the plan to be sure their development is in line with the spirit of the plan.
“The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan isn’t telling you that you can’t create two lots,” she said. “It’s saying you need to make sure what you’re doing is efficient, and we really should consider ways of building higher density, if possible.”
Kondor said ultimately the town would be better served by larger lots than smaller ones, and that the SSRP’s goal of increased residential density doesn’t apply to rural Alberta.
“My feeling is that this is for the big cities,” he said. “In Calgary, I think you can run a mile without touching the ground, running house to house and roof to roof. People want to come to a small town so you can have a little space between you and your neighbours.”
“It is probably based on city (development),” replied Brunner, “but it applies universally.”
“The government has left it up to municipalities to determine what it means to them,” she added.
“We’ve seen an appetite for big lots here,” said Phillips.
“We’ve seen how many dozens of small lots here and they’re for sale because people don’t want small, they want big. Building small lots I think would be a mistake.”
Discussions on the issue are expected to continue.