A long-awaited Rimbey seniors complex has cleared another hurdle — but not without some controversy.
Town council approved bylaw changes last week to allow Rimoka Housing Foundation, which will build the 80-unit complex, to subdivide the site it will sit on and donate 2.7 acres containing a wetland back to the town. That leaves about five acres for the almost-$17-million seniors building.
It was an option recommended by town planners.
But some residents questioned the deal because the wetland will also serve as part of the storm water runoff plan for land owned by developer Stan Cummings, of SJC Development Corp., nearby.
Former Rimoka Housing Authority chairman Joe Anglin says the agreement amounts to a subsidy for the developer. Ponoka County, which bought the land and donated it to Rimoka for the project, should have only purchased the five acres or so it needed rather than buy eight and donate 2.7 acres, he argues.
Ponoka County chief administrative officer Charlie Cutforth said taxpayers were not left short. The county agreed to pay for the wetland, some form of which was required for the project anyway, and in exchange the developer would pick up a bigger share of the costs of an access road.
As well, Rimoka, which gets 75 per cent of its funding from the county, will also not be asked to contribute to future road construction nearby.
“We thought we had brokered a heck of a deal,” said Cutforth. The developer is building the road sooner than needed, which is a benefit to the project, he added
The cost of the wetland construction won’t be more than would have been paid anyway, he said.
Cutforth said the county and residents want to see the project done as soon as possible.
“It’s badly needed and so we’re prepared to step up and help where we can to make that happen.”
Ponoka County Reeve and foundation chairman Paul McLauchlin credited Cummings with helping them save money by taking on a larger share of road paving, including paving that will be required later on as the area builds out next to the complex.
The town has also agreed to oversee and maintain the wet pond once it’s built.
“We’ve eliminated the need for us at the Rimoka Foundation to take any funds away from the project proper,” he said.
The pond will be a great feature for the complex, he said.
In May 2014, the province announced $13.3 million for the project, which has been held up partly because of the time it took to nail down an adequate site. The foundation also plans to borrow $3.5 million.
It was initially hoped the complex would be open in spring 2017 but will more likely be ready in late 2017 or early 2018.
The existing 63-unit Parkland Manor will remain but may be renovated for a different use.