A provincial plan to build a rest stop along Highway 2 is heading in the wrong direction, says the City of Lacombe.
The province said in March it planned to build a commercial safety rest area on the highway, just outside north Lacombe at Wolf Creek, to serve the 14,000 vehicles passing by daily.
The stop off for drivers would include a gas station and other commercial opportunities such as restaurants.
The plan rang alarm bells among Lacombe planners, who pointed out the area is not within a designated future growth area, nor is it located within a joint economic area, where the city and Lacombe County have an agreement to share taxes generated by new development.
That area is centred around the Highway 2 and 12 interchange.
“In addition, the commercial development would put the province in direct competition with a developer actively marketing highway-front commercial land in the city,” says a report going to council Monday from Jordan Thompson, Lacombe director of operations and planning.
Developers of the proposed Midway Centre development south of the proposed highway rest stop have expressed interest in working with the province to locate it within their lands, says Thompson.
He points out the city and county are investing $15 million to provide water, sewage and other services to the area. Those costs would be recouped as the area builds out.
Kanwal Sandhu, of YFL Developments, agrees that the province’s rest stop plan is not the best approach and puts it in competition with other levels of government and the private sector.
It does not make sense to build the stop only a kilometre away from where the city and county intend to develop commercially and where YFL’s own commercial development is slated.
Sandhu said the spot chosen by the province can only be reached directly by northbound traffic, while the sites closer to the Highway 12 interchange are easily accessible to vehicles heading north and south.
Council will debate Monday whether to voice its concerns officially in a letter to new Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda.
A draft of the letter says the previous NDP government had no “official consultations” with the city over its rest stop plan, however, the municipality voiced its concerns informally.
“There is time for your ministry to take action to ensure the Alberta government would not be in direct competition with private commercial developers,” says the letter.
“Supporting rural community viability within the QEII corridor will promote the safe, efficient movement of goods and people across our province.”
The letter proposes locating the rest stop either in Midway Centre or in the joint economic area lands.