SUNDRE — The municipality was presented an offer on a sizeable parcel of land on the east side of town that officials found themselves unable to refuse.
“We looked at it, and went, ‘Yeah, this has some really good potential,’” said Chris Albert, director of corporate services, during a phone interview.
Located south and east of Fountain Tire off of Highway 27 running along the bottom of the hill, the 37.5-acre parcel was previously owned by Les and Lynne McKenzie under a holding company called Ellithorpe Holdings Ltd., which the municipality officially purchased the land from, Albert said.
“It kind of loops behind Fountain Tire, and kind of goes towards that back area,” he explained.
“It’s a very big chunk of land.”
In October of 2019, the McKenzies approached the municipality with a proposal, expressing a desire to partially contribute the land to the town, he said.
“So, it’s a combination of a donation and a cash sale.”
The appraised value of the land as of 2019 was about $575,000, but the municipality acquired the parcel for less than half of that, he said.
“The actual cost — so, the actual cash value that the town paid — was $212,000.”
The transaction was finalized this past May, he said.
“In some cases, it’s good for the town to own certain pieces of land, just so that we can develop. It worked out in our favour.”
Boasting a variety of features, the land offers plenty of development potential, he said.
“What we’re kind of contemplating for it — and we don’t have a full plan in place yet, because we want to do public consultations in regards to it — but one of the things that we’re contemplating is more of a campground,” he said.
“The Greenwood Campground is full quite a bit of time and we can utilize more campground space.”
So, the municipality is investigating the possibility of turning the new parcel into a year-long campground destination and nature recreation interface that could also include a number of additional amenities, he said.
“Because of its location just across the highway from the (Sundre Golf Club), it could be a good camping spot for golfers, so we could partner up with the golf course.”
Once developed, the land could include tenting areas, trappers’ tents, playgrounds, lawn bowling, horseshoe pits, bocce ball, trails and boardwalks. The plan is to consult the public to see what the community would prefer to see, and to narrow options down from there.
A timeline and process to engage the public has not yet been determined, he said.
“There is some, of course, social gathering concerns with regards to COVID.”
Additionally, feedback from members of the municipality’s tourism committee will also be sought out, he said.
“We need to get them together and have their input,” he said.
“That initial step hasn’t been taken yet, as far as I know.”
Provincial stimulus funding that was previously announced is also expected to assist with the planning process. Council recently decided to direct administration to submit an application for stimulus funding specifically for that project, he said.
“Where part of the stimulus funding is going, is to work with not only the community, but (also) with some sort of consulting firm to develop a plan and figure out, ‘OK, what are the potential ideas for this area,’ and to garner all of that information, put everything together into a nice package that we can figure out what to do with this land.”
The project is not being rushed and could take years to fully develop, he added.
“This is a long-term vision for that area,” he said.
“Whatever that vision ends up being, this isn’t going to be something that we’re going to try and build overnight…it’s going to take a bit of time.”
Although the stimulus funding will provide a crucial kickstart to get the ball rolling, the municipality intends to proceed in phases pending public input, he said.
“We’re planning on taking a few years to completely develop the area and do everything the community wants within it.”
Since a requirement of the stimulus funding is that projects do not represent an increased burden on the municipality’s taxpayers, among the goals is to reinvest revenues generated back into further developing the land, he said.
“As it’s rolled out in phases, one phase will help to pay for the next, so that we can kind of minimize those costs to the taxpayers.”