Balzac residents and investors attended an open house and presentation on Dec. 2 to discuss the first draft of the Balzac West Area Structure Plan (ASP).
Residents and investors alike expressed concerns in and out of the meeting, with water and sewage services being their main worry for any future development.
Amy Zaluski, Rocky View County (RVC) planner on the Balzac West ASP gave the presentations at the RVC Municipal Building.
The first draft of the plan was passed by RVC council on Nov. 25.
The ASP outlines future physical development of 4,480 hectares of land, including new residential and commercial developments. It discussed issues around transportation, water, drainage and utility service requirements if the first draft is accepted.
The most unique part of the plan for residents, Zaluski said, is the outline for a new “compact county residential” area, with an average of one unit per acre. In this area, residents will live very close to their neighbours in a residential setting and have large amounts of open space for large public or private community recreation areas.
Balzac resident Dwight Ferguson said roads were his main concern and if things get too much busier, he and his wife might not be able to handle it.
“We’re to the point where (Balzac) is too busy,” he said.
“We’ll just as soon bail out if it doesn’t work out.”
Ferguson said his wife was born and raised in Balzac so they have a special connection to the people and community.
“At the rate we’re going I’m not surprised if we’ll be part of Airdrie (soon).” Ferguson said.
“There aren’t going to be any rural people left here,” Balzac farmer Wes James said.
“We’re lucky a lot of land owners came out tonight.”
Commercial development is slotted for the area along the railroad to provide a buffer between the residential areas and the highway.
Areas of West Balzac that don’t have any concrete plans, long term developments, take up more than one third of the total land area.
“When I first saw (the plan) I was surprised,” said Rocky View County Councillor Lois Habberfield at the open house.
“I’m cautiously optimistic and waiting for what residents have to say.”
Jory McKenzie, RVCs capital projects lead of Infrastructure and Operations, said future development is currently restrained are the upgrades needed for the Langdon Wastewater Treatment Plant. He said there are several upgrades planned and construction is underway, but financing the project has been an issue.
“Until we get financing in place RVC is projecting it to be a 2016 operation,” he said, adding that $11 million is still needed to continue the project. Financing, Habberfield adds, will most likely come from borrowing, levies or RVC savings.
Norm McCaw, another Balzac resident said the county planners can “draw all the pretty maps they want,” but if they can’t provide the services like water and sewage, then it’s dead in the water.
“I don’t know if it’s a good plan but we’ve seen it all before,” McCaw said.
“They’re try to build something distinct but whether or not it’s going to work is a different story.”
“They have to get water and they have to get services and until then they’re wasting our time and taxpayer money,” James said.
Laura Wills, board director at Rocky View Capital Corp., came to the event representing a group of 1,500 investors that she said has been waiting since 2007 to see the county create a plan that would allow them to develop the area in residential housing. After coming to the meeting, she said she learned her investors’ land isn’t even shown on the map.
“We can’t build or develop based on this plan,” Wills said. “Hopefully there’s some maneuvering (we can do) and that’s why we’re here — to ask them to bring us into their scope.”
She said her investors will suffer financially if this plan doesn’t change. After the presentation, she said she didn’t get the answers she was looking for, but got clarification about why her clients’ property is taking so long to get services.
Residents can submit their own comments on the ASP online until Jan. 6 by searching “Balzac West Area Structure Plan” at rockyview.ca and clicking on “Online Comment Form.”