By Samantha Johnson
On the evening of Wednesday, February 12th there was an open house at the Cypress County offices for a public consultation on the draft Gasoline Alley Area Structure Plan (ASP). There was a good turnout, with almost every seat taken. Several members of council were present, along with Cypress County staff and representatives of WSP, the engineering consulting firm who has prepared the ASP on behalf of Cypress County.
Chen Peng, planning consultant for WSP, opened her presentation by explaining the ASP is a required statutory document and was not triggering any development. The ASP is only indicating what could happen in the future for the area covered by the document and all future development will occur from west to east.
John Ashton, municipal engineer for WSP, when questioned after the presentation, highlighted that the area covered is the land east of the Dunmore Co-op through to Highway 41. He added the ASP must conform with other plans already in place, such as the Dunmore Master Plan and other regional or provincial plans. Ashton also explained that WSP was working on a Master Servicing Plan for the whole of Cypress County, and this too will conform with what is in the ASP.
Alf Belyea, councillor for the Jenner/Suffield area, said, “the county is being proactive regarding future commercial and industrial development in the area by completing the ASP now. A bylaw will be drafted for development of the area and there will be another open house for public consultation before the bylaw is passed.”
“The Equestrian Centre is currently under development and there has been some other interest. The county wanted to be prepared for future development,” added Dan Hamilton, county reeve.
One question that came up from a resident was if the county was looking at putting an overpass on Highway 41 as it is already a problem when a train stops, and traffic would only increase with more development.
Kaylene Simpson, planning supervisor with Cypress County, said, “it would be an issue the county would have to look at more in the future in conjunction with Alberta Transportation and CPR.”
Chris Robinson, another resident of Dunmore, was concerned about the types of development being looked at and what the impact on the community would be in terms of increased crime, stating that putting in a truck stop or a Tim Hortons would increase the amount of transient traffic in the community whereas additional warehouses likely wouldn’t.
Again, since the ASP is not triggering any development, these are issues that would need to be looked at in the future.
Len Blackman, who has been a resident of Dunmore for 20 years, thought the open house was informative but felt it needed more clarity, although acknowledged this might happen at the next open house when the bylaw was passed. “It gave me a broader understanding about plans for future growth and how they plan to mitigate issues.”
Blackman had some specific questions regarding water and sewer services. “For a long time, the County wasn’t going to develop in the area due to inadequate water supply and I am wondering what changed? How are they going to service these future developments? And, are they planning a proper sewer system for Dunmore? Possibly putting in a substation?”
Simpson clarified the water issue by explaining, “Cypress County and the City of Medicine Hat negotiated to increase the supply of potable water from the Dunmore watergate to accommodate growth in the hamlets of Dunmore, Irvine and Walsh.”
Should the area be developed, it would depend on the density impact of the development to determine if a sewer system would need to be put into place or if the new development could use a septic system.
During the presentation it was made clear that further studies, such as a transportation impact assessment and environmental impact assessment would need to be done in the future. Although, one area highlighted in the ASP, the intersection of Range Road 51 and Highway 1, has been approved for funding and will see lights added and highway improvements starting this coming spring.
For those who couldn’t make it to the open house, a digital copy of the ASP can be found at http://www.cypress.ab.ca under “News”.