We need land for industrial development. Plain and simple. We need to rebalance the ratio of our residential to industrial tax base. In order to begin work on our Industrial Attraction Strategy, we need to secure the land for where all the magic will happen.
I haven't heard many people question the need to annex land, but some have questioned how much land we're taking. Here's a couple reasons why I believe Council made a good decision in proposing to annex the full 6500 hectares:
- The new highway bypass will be going right through the annexed area. Industry likes to develop near high traffic corridors. Just look to the north to see this in action. We need to be in a position to capitalize on lands surrounding the new bypass when it comes through.
- Annexations cost time, money, and political capital. I do not believe it's in our interests to continually annex small chunks of land. Annexation negotiations take a considerable amount of the time of our City staff and our elected officials. To go through the process every decade would not be cost effective and detracts from efforts elsewhere.
- It will help with long-term planning. If we want to have future-focused planning in place, it is desirable to have land supply for quite a few decades.
Throughout the annexation negotiations, it was determined that it will cost about $1 million to service the area. We will also be generating $1 million more in revenue from the annexed lands, thus making the annexation cost neutral. These numbers were developed and reviewed by professional City and County staff as well as independent consultants. I have faith in these numbers and nothing has caused me to question their validity.
Some people are saying that the service costs are much more than $1 million. If this is the case, I am all ears. Show me some facts and analysis to back up your theory and I will diligently review them. Until then, I don't want to hear empty rhetoric.
In conclusion, I believe Council made a good decision in annexing the full 6500 hectares. I just hope the Municipal Government Board finds our proposal acceptable and processes it quickly.
Let's Thrive, Grande Prairie!