News Local

Prairies on the way

Josh Chalmers Multimedia Journalist
Prarie Merchant Corporation Submitted  The Area Structure Plan for The Prairies development passed second and third reading at Strathmore Town Councils Nov. 16 meeting. Shown is an artists rendering of Prairies Edge situated on the northern most portion of the development on the east side of Strathmore

Prarie Merchant Corporation Submitted The Area Structure Plan for The Prairies development passed second and third reading at Strathmore Town Councils Nov. 16 meeting. Shown is an artists rendering of Prairies Edge situated on the northern most portion of the development on the east side of Strathmore

Strathmore Town Council approved the Area Structure Plan for The Prairies development at their meeting on Nov. 6 meaning the project isn't far off from breaking ground.

While the vote to approve the ASP, for the project on the east side of George Freeman Trail, was unanimous not all of those in the community were in support of the decision.

The opposition to the project centred around the proposal to replace approximately 16 acres of wetlands with around 11 acres of reconstructed wetlands. The town is hoping in most cases to replace wetlands at a one to one ratio, a concern raised by residents and echoed by councillor Earl Best.

"The problem that I'm having is that we are looking at a one to one ratio on moving them," said Best. "We're looking at losing five acres of wetland and I'm wondering exactly how that corresponds to the one to one ratio."

According to representatives of Prairie Merchant Corporation, the developer for the project, the shift can't be looked at in a vacuum. While the surface area of the wetlands will be reduced, the volume will be increased as well as the shoreline.

"There is surface areas and there are volumetrics," said Kristi Buender of Prair Merchant. "The Wetland Conservation Plan is telling you that you have 1.2 kilometres of shoreline and 16 acres of surface area. That is about a foot deep. We are talking about introducing ponds here that are about a metre and a half deep. So volumetrically there is actually more wetland than the surface area would imply."

Buender continued that while the ASP calls for a certain amount of wetland it could increase based on need as the project moves along,.as well the constructed wetland is only taking into account Prairie's Edge, the first development, while that for the second development, Prairie's View, has yet to be calculated.

According to Prairie Merchant Corporation Chairman Brett Wilson the new wetlands will be a better quality than the existing one.

"In a saline slough that is intermittent you don't get wildlife recurring the way that we anticipate," said Wilson. "Keep in mind that we are planning to triple the shoreline and right now the shoreline is badly impacted by grazing cattle and cattle manure, it's a mess. What you're going to see when we're done is something the whole community can be proud of... We genuinely believe that it's a net improvement not a net loss."

While the wetlands seemed to be the primary concern of opposed residents growth was another.

Strathmore resident Tracy Southworth had a letter read into the record that addressed their concerns about what this kind of growth would mean to the community.

"We understand that our new water and sewer infrastructure has been designed and built to carry the town up to a population of 50,000 people. This would be great if a population of 50,00 is what the citizens of Strathmore want. We are in no way alone in our desire to live in a small community," the letter read.

However, some council members had the opposite feeling about growth. Councillor Rocky Blokland said that he wanted to see the community grow.

"I want to see Strathmore up and growing and I think what you're proposing to do here is excellent," said Blokland.

Councillor John Rempel said this is the natural progression from the annexation the town recently underwent.

'We annexed the land to expand the borders of Strathmore. Now that we've annexed the land we're welcoming you to come develop it," said Rempel.

Now that the town has approved the ASP for the project Prairie Merchant Corporation has just a few more hurdles to overcome before breaking ground.

The next step happens at the Dec. 7 council meeting when the zoning process will be up for debate for Phase 1 of the project.

Town CAO Dwight Stanford said that the subdivision application could some in late December or January with approval coming possibly in March, subject to a development agreement. Once a grading permit is issued, probably in March or April, the project could break ground in spring.

According to literature on the Prairie's Edge website the company is hoping to begin developing 20-50 single family units.