The developers behind two major projects east of Olds are crying foul after Mountain View County altered the municipal development plan covering their property.
Prodev Limited Partnership and Neuroese Properties have even asked the Town of Olds to annex the affected lands.
Prodev is already selling lots in Netook Crossing Business Park, an industrial-commercial subdivision south of Hwy 27 and west of Hwy 2. Eight of the 31 parcels have been sold, with Olds Co-operative Ltd. operating a cardlock fuel station and Olds RV Inc. a dealership there.
Olds Dodge Chrysler Jeep is currently building a new dealership there.
North of Hwy 27 is Netook Crossing North Business Park and Residential Community, a commercial-industrial-residential development that Neuroese is working on.
Terry Johnstone, a senior adviser with Prodev, and Herb Styles, a realty adviser with Neuroese, said county council’s decision to change the municipal development plan in July and then repeal the Netook Crossing North concept plan last month has adversely impacted their projects.
In the case of Netook Crossing North, it changed the maximum residential densities allowed.
“In essence, the MDP (municipal development plan) changes put the brakes on the Netook Crossing North concept plan,” said Styles in an email to the Advocate.
“MVC (Mountain View County) is currently working through a process to amend the area structure plan for highway 2/27 lands and has repealed our previously approved concept plan.
“This, of course, has had a major impact on our ability to move forward.”
Netook Crossing Business Park does not have a residential component.
But Johnstone said the original plans contemplated that the county would provide connections to regional water and sewer services.
“Our expectation in discussions with the county was that they would finance the construction of the water and sewer connections and the landowners would pay for it over time on some kind of local improvement charge.
“That’s the basis on which our project proceeded.
He described how Prodev installed $2.5 million worth of water and sewer lines, and other infrastructure, expecting that this would happen. But now the county wants Prodev to pay for the connections up front — an option he said is not economically feasible.
“Our guesstimate is that it’s about a $10-million investment required to fully comply with the MDP requirements, if it needs to be fully prepaid before anything happens.”
Johnstone added that the county would be repaid as development progresses.
Al Kemmere, a Mountain View County councillor whose division includes the Netook area, said the MDP changes came after the 2010 municipal election.
“Agricultural lands is one of the big strongholds of this new council, and that was one of their big concerns,” he said of the motivation for the changes to the residential density requirements.
Kemmere added that the Netook Crossing North concept plan, as its name implied, was always subject to change.
“It’s not a deemed approval by any means. It is just an understanding that this is where they were thinking of going, and those things can change form time to time.”
As for the county’s obligation to install services, Kemmere said the matter was discussed but he doesn’t recall the county ever promising to do so.
“In my recollection, there was never a definite commitment one way or the other, who was going to lay the services in.
“This council prefers that the developers put it in, and then there would be an endeavor to assist on future development to try to get that money back to the original developers.”
Johnstone said the possibility of annexation by the Town of Olds is a “wild card” in the dispute.
“To maintain the vision for Netook, annexation may be the only way for all parties to win.”
Norm McInnis, the town’s chief administrative officer, said his council has not acted on Prodev and Neuroese’s request. It would, he added, consider that option if it would help the developers and county resolve their dispute.
“But annexation at this point doesn’t seem to be supported by the county and we don’t want to get into a battle over it,” said McInnis.
Kemmere confirmed his opposition to annexation.
“This is our prime opportunity to diversify our tax base,” he said of the Netook lands.
The town played a role in developing the original plans and will be invited to participate in the creation of new ones, he added.
“I think there’s an intent from the county to work with the developer and the town.”
Styles and Johnstone said they also hope to resolve their differences with the county amicably.
“We were disappointed with the outcome of this process but it’s time to look to the future,” said Styles. “Our focus at the moment is moving Netook forward in a manner that everyone benefits (from).”