There’s only so much land on which to build in the Town of Okotoks. With unprecedented growth and future projections looking somewhat overwhelming, the Town and Foothills County have finally pieced together an understanding regarding annexation.
The understanding in principle between the two municipalities means that as much as 2,000 acres of prime building land is within reach, as approved by Town Council. The annexation concept and proposal was presented and passed at Council’s final meeting in June.
Land will be expropriated to Okotoks communities on the south west and north east side of town. In the final proposal, land south east of town, south of the Sheep River, was removed from the proposal.
Council and the annexation committee has been working towards finalizing the land acquisition for nearly three years, working closely with the M.D. of Foothills.
The next step is to file an annexation report with the Municipal Government Board to ratify the understanding so that the town’s boundaries can be redefined. It’s hoped that this step can be wrapped up by January 2017. At that time, the Town of Okotoks can “hit the ground running” and commence development.
In the next six months, Town Council can make definitive plans as to how to use the land – sort of a “what should go where” approach to the extra space.
One of the challenges in this annexation is the need for a potable water pipeline which has not yet been approved.
The water would be piped in from Calgary in collaboration with the Calgary Regional Partnership and other municipal bodies like the provincial government. As of this date, the Town is stalled in its talks with the Minister responsible for this area.
Okotoks is the largest town in Alberta
Okotoks needs a pipeline, or an alternative source of potable water, before it can proceed full steam ahead with development plans for the annexed land. Water is required not just for residential use, but to sustain the economic vitality and ensure future growth.
Town officials are concerned that even though water has been a concern for a least the last four years, that the NDP government will stall the pipeline further rather that see it as investment in light of its projected deficit of over $10 billion. Piping potable water from the City of Calgary is anticipated to cost $35 million.
Okotoks is a community of the future
The 2,000 acres in this annexation will provide additional land in the Town for the next 60 years. Prior to 2012 there was a cap of 30,000 to 35,000 residents put on population growth pending the availability of land. By late 2013 it was obvious that more land was required.
Once a notice was filed with the county and with local school divisions, the Town held four public consultation meetings to garner public input and support for the land acquisition.
Land currently zoned as agricultural will be assessed the same tax rate as has been paid to the MD of Foothills, at least for the next 30 years. After that, landowners will pay the same tax rate as assessed by the Town of Okotoks should the land be developed.