Red tape may delay horse racing at Lacombe

Horse racing at Alberta Downs could be reined to a standstill if Lacombe County development conditions are not met soon.

Horse racing at Alberta Downs could be reined to a standstill if Lacombe County development conditions are not met soon.

Only a week before the first harness racing event was scheduled, the track developer has still not nailed down necessary provincial government sign-offs on drainage and other site work, Allan Williams, county manager of planning services told council on Thursday. A number of more minor conditions must also be met before the county can issue a development permit for the facility just west of Lacombe.

“At some point in the not-too-distant future, we’re going to have to look at some way to deal with this issue,” said county Reeve Terry Engen.

“On one hand we don’t want to be obstructionist, on the other hand you can’t turn your head all the time — you have to deal with it.”

Councillor Keith Stephenson said construction has been ongoing for many months.

“I think it’s time we stepped in. Some action must be taken.”

Bob Jenkins, a consultant on the project, said he’s aware of the county’s concerns and will be meeting with its staff on Tuesday. He met with an engineer to finalize the report on drainage and expects to present that.

“We certainly hope we’re close,” he said when asked about progress on the development conditions.

Construction on the $8 million to $10 million race track has been going on for more than two years at the 142-acre site at the corner of Hwy 12 and Hwy 2. Turf and sand tracks have been completed and construction of the main grandstand and other buildings is underway.

Calgary developer Robert Allen was not required to get development approval for a race track while it remained zoned as agricultural land.

That changed in December when county council approved rezoning to allow for a horse racing and gaming facility with up to 150 slot machines. The gaming portion is on the backburner because of a provincial moratorium on new gaming licences.

As part of those approvals, Allen had to meet a number of conditions before getting a development permit.

County commissioner Terry Hager said the municipality wants all of the approvals in place before racing begins. The county has not yet decided if it will pursue a stop work order to try to stop the upcoming race events, or will give Allen more time.

But the clock is ticking.

“He has certainly pushed us well beyond our comfort level,” he said. “Very quickly, we have no alternative but to take action.”

If a stop work order is issued, Allen can appeal to the subdivision and development appeal board. If the decision goes the wrong way for him, he could take it to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

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