Ru­ral mega-mall to go ahead de­spite rul­ing

PressReader - BRUCE_CAROL_ROWE Channel - Ru­ral mega-mall to go ahead de­spite rul­ing
The city may have been the vic­tor in a de­vel­op­ment tug of war with its ru­ral neigh­bours, but Rocky View County’s reeve says a green light for a mas­sive shop­ping cen­tre is a win for his mu­nic­i­pal­ity.In late De­cem­ber, the mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment board ruled in favour of a ma­jor­ity of the City of Cal­gary’s ob­jec­tions to Rocky View’s Omni area struc­ture plan, a vast 517-hectare swath of land on the city’s east­ern lim­its, south of Coun­try Hills Boule­vard and east of Stoney Trail.How­ever, the panel said de­spite agree­ing that the ma­jor­ity of the de­vel­op­ment plan could have a “detri­men­tal im­pact” on the city given the plan­ning area’s scale, the heart of the project, a 75-hectare, $300-mil­lion shop­ping and com­mer­cial cen­tre pro­posed by Ge­n­e­sis Land De­vel­op­ment Corp. at 84th Street N.E. and a fu­ture ex­ten­sion of Air­port Trail will be al­lowed to move for­ward.“Con­sid­er­ing the ap­proval of the Omni ASP and the ad­vanced state of Ge­n­e­sis’ plan­ning for the Omni Project, fur­ther de­lays would un­nec­es­sar­ily af­fect the landowner’s in­ter­est in pro­ceed­ing with its de­vel­op­ment,” read the rul­ing.Mean­while, the bulk of the land plan will form what the panel called a “spe­cial study area,” which will al­low for the com­ple­tion of trans­porta­tion net­work stud­ies and com­pre­hen­sive plan­ning un­der the Cal­gary metropoli­tan re­gional growth plan.De­spite the mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment board hit­ting the pause but­ton on the bulk of the plan­ning zone, Rocky View Reeve Greg Boehlke said he’s pleased with the de­ci­sion as it will al­low a crit­i­cal piece of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment for the ru­ral mu­nic­i­pal­ity to move for­ward.“We are happy with the rul­ing,” Boehlke said, not­ing that de­spite the dis­pute with the county’s much larger neigh­bour, he be­lieves the process has helped thaw re­la­tions be­tween the two mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, which in the past had been oc­ca­sion­ally frosty. “I would call it a bit of a thaw. They’re start­ing to re­al­ize we don’t have horns hid­ing un­der our hair, and we’re just as ca­pa­ble as they are at putting to­gether a good plan.”The county ap­proved the Omni area struc­ture plan in 2017, aim­ing to trans­form the area along the city’s north­east bor­der from agri­cul­tural land to a high­way busi­ness hub with a va­ri­ety of com­mer­cial and light in­dus­trial uses.But last sum­mer, the city raised ob­jec­tions, ar­gu­ing the mas­sive de­vel­op­ment would re­quire sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in traf­fic in­fra­struc­ture to the tune of about $60 mil­lion and strain the city’s emer­gency ser­vices. As well, the city ar­gued the vi­sion for the area was far more in­ten­sive than what’s out­lined in the county’s de­vel­op­ment plan.Given the po­ten­tial ef­fect of such a far-reach­ing de­vel­op­ment plan, the mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment board, which heard from both par­ties in July, said Cal­gary could be un­duly af­fected with­out more thought­ful plan­ning.“The MGB finds the bal­ance of the Omni ASP (be­yond the Omni Project) in­tro­duces a sig­nif­i­cant level of plan­ning un­cer­tainty that may have a detri­men­tal im­pact from Cal­gary’s per­spec­tive,” the panel wrote.“In ad­di­tion, detri­ment arises to Cal­gary from a com­bi­na­tion of the in­ten­sity of pro­posed land uses and as­so­ci­ated traf­fic, to­gether with un­cer­tainty as to the tim­ing and na­ture of nec­es­sary trans­porta­tion up­grades and the sources of fund­ing for those up­grades.”Cal­gary Coun. Ge­orge Cha­hal, whose north­east Cal­gary ward sits along­side the Omni lands, said while the city has no is­sue with its ru­ral neigh­bours look­ing to grow, the city shouldn’t be left on the hook for crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture needed to sup­port large-scale de­vel­op­ment out­side its bor­ders and tax base.“We be­lieve the mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment board’s prece­dent-set­ting de­ci­sion will bring a needed re­con­sid­er­a­tion of the Omni Area Struc­ture Plan, which pro­posed sub­stan­tial re­gional com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment on Cal­gary’s east side,” he said in a state­ment.“While The City of Cal­gary rec­og­nizes and sup­ports Rocky View County’s ef­forts to bring new de­vel­op­ment to our re­gion, The City has made it clear that all new de­vel­op­ments in the Rocky View County should not be sub­si­dized by Cal­gary’s res­i­dents and busi­nesses.”Ge­n­e­sis vice-pres­i­dent of land de­vel­op­ment Arnie Ste­fa­niuk said the com­pany is now mov­ing for­ward on craft­ing a con­cep­tual scheme for the county, adding the lo­ca­tion along a fu­ture Air­port Trail ex­pan­sion is a key fac­tor in its fu­ture suc­cess.“It is very early in the process and much work still needs to be done on tech­ni­cal is­sues and fig­ur­ing out re­tailer needs, etc.,” he said in an emailed state­ment.“There will be more in­for­ma­tion re­leased as the de­vel­op­ment ap­proval process un­folds.”The planned shop­ping mecca, which has a foot­print about 28 hectares larger than the nearby East Hills shop­ping cen­tre, en­vi­sions a mas­sive re­tail and out­let cen­tre, restau­rants and cafes, three bou­tique ho­tels, a chil­dren’s cre­ative zone, a se­niors liv­ing com­mu­nity and a large of­fice cam­pus.Boehlke said while the ap­proved com­mer­cial area will still be fac­ing a 12- to 15-year build-out, the broader re­gion had al­ways been eyed as a long-term growth plan, to be de­vel­oped over the next three or four decades.As such, he doesn’t see the mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment board’s rul­ing as a ma­jor road­block for the ru­ral mu­nic­i­pal­ity.“As the re­gions grow out, there’s go­ing to be room for all of us in the fu­ture,” Boehlke said.“When you have a ma­jor me­trop­o­lis like Cal­gary, which has had most of the growth to it­self for years, it’s a bit of an ad­just­ment.”

A pro­posed OMNI shop­ping and com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment on Cal­gary’s east­ern out­skirts has re­ceived ap­proval.

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