A Lacombe County councillor urged caution as a project gets underway to update a plan to guide development along the Red Deer River.
Bill Knight said the last plan for the area on the east side of the county proved controversial when it was developed eight years ago.
“We took quite a raking over the coals,” he said during Thursday’s council meeting.
Knight said later in an interview that he believes many of the problems that occurred the last time around arose out of misunderstandings of the outline plan’s intent.
Some landowners who saw their property included in future residential growth areas feared they would be required to develop.
“They didn’t understand that if they were farming and they wanted to stay farming, that was the way it was going to be,” he said.
“There was a lot of people whose land was included on that map and they said, ‘We don’t want nothing to do with this, we’re going to just farm.’ It was just a basic misunderstanding.”
This time around, Knight wants to be sure the county makes it clear to landowners up front that regardless of the plan’s vision for future growth, nobody is under any obligation to change the way they use their own property.
“They have to request to be rezoned or do their developments on their own. It’s not that we’re going to say, ‘You guys are doing that.’ ”
The proposed area structure plan covers about 100 quarter sections south of Hwy 11 beginning about 15 km southwest of Joffre to a line south of Haynes about 20 km to the east.
Dale Freitag, the county’s said the area covered by the proposed Hwy 11 Area Structure Plan plan is much smaller than the previous outline plan, which extended as far as Buffalo Lake.
The plan is smaller because few development opportunities were identified east of Range Road 24-4.
The area that is covered includes a number of sites along the river that could prove attractive to housing developers. The proximity to Red Deer, nearby towns, and worksites such as the Joffre petrochemical plant, are also expected to spur development interest.
Councillor Ken Wigmore wondered if the smaller plan would still face opposition because of its size.
If residents make it clear at the first public meeting on the plan, likely to go in October, that the plan is too big it could be reduced, said Freitag.
Reducing the plan carries the risk that some residents, who wanted to be included, would be left out, said Councillor Rod McDermand.
A timeline presented to council suggests the plan could go to council for final approval in mid-2010 following a number of public meetings and a formal hearing.