A huge housing and golf course development overlooking the Red Deer River near Joffre took another planning approval step at Lacombe County on Thursday.
Council gave first reading of bylaw to change zoning on 937 acres of land 10 km south of Joffre from agriculture to residential and recreational use. A public hearing has been set for Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. in council chambers, followed by second reading.
Deer River is proposed as a 521-lot subdivision built on terraces overlooking the river and an 18-hole golf course. Lots will range in size from 0.3 to two acres.
The project is being developed by the Winnipeg-based Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren, which has owned the land for a number of years.
Ryan Vold, who helped develop Wolf Creek Golf Resort and its surrounding housing development, is working as a consultant on the Deer River project, which will be modelled along similar lines.
Vold said the next step will be preparing a detailed presentation for the public hearing.
The project is expected to be built in 11 phases. The golf course and the first 50 lots are in the first phase of what will be an upscale development.
“I’ve been talking to people and there’s definitely a lot of interest,” he said.
While some have questioned whether another golf course is needed, Vold said the golf course business has become a “lifestyle choice” with courses serving as an amenity for new residential developments.
“We’re going to try to make it so it blends together and is financially viable and it can all go forward that way,” he said.
“It’s a beautiful spot. I mean it’s a one-off spot right along the river. It’s got a lot of great advantages. It would be a beautiful place to live.”
Depending on the plan approval process, ground work could begin next year.
Councillors supported the project, although concerns were raised that an open house held on Oct. 21 at the Balmoral Community Hall fell short of residents’ expectations.
Several councillors got complaints that no formal presentation was made by the development group, which had representatives on hand to answer questions and point out features on placards.
Coun. Ken Wigmore suggested a second open house would go a long way to easing any local concerns. However, a motion to delay first reading a few minutes to consider whether a second open house should be held did not pass.
Coun. Brenda Knight noted that the county had not asked the developer to do a formal presentation as part of an open house.
“Quite honestly, he did what he was asked to do.”
Coun. Rod McDermand, whose division includes the Deer River site, said he had little opposition to the project.
“For the magnitude of this, I don’t think there was a lot of concern.”
Vold told council he intends to talk to any nearby residents who have concerns to explain plans for the development.