A Town of Ponoka annexation proposal that stirred opposition and spawned accusations of a land grab has been dramatically scaled back.
The municipality will apply to annex about 980 acres of surrounding Ponoka County land. In 2008, the town initially suggested annexing parts of 20 quarter sections on all sides of the community and more than doubling its land base.
“It has been reduced significantly from the original application,” said Brad Watson, the town’s chief administrative officer.
Among the changes made was to remove an area that included a country residential subdivision from the annexation application.
A number of residents there had opposed being included within the town’s boundaries and had formed a landowner group in opposition.
The town has dropped the initial plan to seek land on all sides of the community. No land will be sought on the north and east borders.
“We’ve concentrated on getting out to the highway for industrial and commercial land,” he said.
While the town has ample residential land, industrial and commercial land was in short supply. Taking land on the west side will also provide a direct connection with the important Hwy 2 transportation corridor.
The town presented its new proposal to Ponoka County at its July 20 meeting. That council voted to support the application.
A formal application will be sent to the Municipal Government Board soon, he said.
Only 19 properties are included in the application area. Seventeen are in favour, one person is neutral and one opposes annexation.
The town has tried to address that person’s issues but he remains opposed. It is unlikely the Municipal Government Board would consent to the landowner remaining in the county because it would create an island parcel in the middle of the town.
Landowners can formally oppose an annexation application and appear at a public hearing, which adds another step to the application approval process.
Ponoka County chief administrative officer Charlie Cutforth said the municipality understands why the town would want to develop land at the highway interchange. It’s a growth area for many communities along the highway.
Adding more commercial and industrial land will also take some of the tax burden off the town’s residents, he said.
A town growth study completed in July suggests the town needs about 1,100 acres of land outside its current boundaries to provide for 50 years of growth.