Tapping into the economic potential of the Hwy 2 corridor while limiting “leap frog” development is a key focus of a new Ponoka County plan.
An estimated 23,000 vehicles a day take Hwy 2 through the county, offering a significant advantages to both commercial and industrial businesses, which benefit from exposure and access to transportation routes, says the Hwy 2 Corridor Development Study.
Since few local roadways in the county meet with Hwy 2, it’s best to reserve them for commercial enterprises, says the study.
County Reeve Paul McLauchlin said the planning work has created a “model of certainty” for landowners and will be used as a guide for council when making development decisions.
The county wants to avoid creating a “mish-mash of land uses” that risk creating conflicts.
“We’ll have a more methodical approach to this and a more phased approach to this to make sure that people understand.”
Public response has been supportive, said McLauchlin. While the preservation of good farmland remains a priority, there is also a recognition that development pressure shows no signs of abating along the corridor.
“We do know that’s coming obviously so we want to be prepared. But at the same time, we want to be able to make a case-by-case decision,” he said.
“I think people are realists and they want to say hey if (development) is going to happen it’s going to happen. Let’s just do it right and let’s make sure it respects land use and respects the fact we’re an agricultural community with the inevitability that this (non-agricultural) development is going to occur.”
After public consultation, additional land was set aside for potential development around the Hwy 53 and Menaik Road interchanges in the final version of the plan that council adopted earlier this month.
The study says there’s a good case to be made for allowing suitable commercial and industrial development around highway interchanges, but offers a caution.
Due to the precedent this would set, “the importance of maintaining good relations with neighbouring municipalities, and the absolute priority of traffic safety, the county will ensure that each site is properly planned before any development commences.”
While development is encouraged in certain areas, the plan reinforces the county’s commitment to preserving agriculture.