Lacombe Country working on proposals to streamline development

Lacombe County will streamline its development approval process and play a bigger role in helping developers negotiate provincial government red tape as part of a new economic initiative.

Lacombe County will streamline its development approval process and play a bigger role in helping developers negotiate provincial government red tape as part of a new economic initiative.

Reeve Terry Engen said the county has been working on a new economic development strategy for more than a year.

County officials have met with developers and realtors to look at ways to improve the current system.

Among the changes endorsed by county council last week is a new approach to the amount of work developers will be expected to do while projects are still in early stages.

Currently, developers are expected to have all traffic studies, water analyses and other background documentation before a proposed project is taken to the public for input.

“That is one of the criteria before (a project) ever gets to council is a developer has to have that first open public meeting with the community to show the community what they are doing.”

But developers complained that put them in a risky position.

“The developers were saying we’re putting out vast amounts of money and we have no guarantees you guys are going to approve anything.”

The county will now allow developers to take their projects public before all the background work is finished.

However, necessary studies will have to be completed before a project reaches the development agreement stage.

“That’s a concession to them and it’s a legitimate concession.”

Another key initiative will see the county take more of a leading role in dealing with government departments when developers run into issues that can’t seem to be resolved.

“Certainly we’re going to be very proactive. We will deal with government departments on behalf of all ratepayers.

“When it comes to development, I think there have been issues, whether it be environment or transportation, where basically you hit a brick wall.

“The county seems to be in the same position many times. So we will go that extra mile to be that advocate and try to find and look at some solutions with the provincial government.”

Engen said the county does not want to be seen as consultants for developers.

“We’re not getting paid to do that. Up to a certain point, the developers are on their own.”

Council did not agree to all of the suggestions by developers.

The county will stick to its present policy of requiring a security of 25 per cent and the rest must be paid when land is subdivided.

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