After a public hearing March 24, attended by unhappy residents concerned about whether or not Rimbey town council should rezone land south of the Best Western Rimstone Ridge Hotel, an amendment to the land use bylaw was given second reading.
Although many parcels of land were included in the bylaw only the southern-most parcel, running south of Rimstone Ridge and along 45th Avenue is actually being rezoned from R1 low density housing to IPU (Institutional Public Use). The remaining parcels remain in their current state.
Acting town CAO Melissa Beebe says the parcel containing the hotel remains zoned C2 highway commercial; the parcel east across the road will also stay C2. The parcel of land behind the Best Western was zoned R4 in 2007.
Although it wasn’t stated at the meeting what the rezoned land would be used for, many residents in attendance were concerned it would house the proposed seniors’ lodge. “It could be a school, it could church, it could be a seniors’ complex, the developer asked for it to be rezoned,” said Mayor Rick Pankiw, listing the general uses of IPU land.
“I’m wanting to know what is the future development plan for this area being rezoned. I’m concerned about what type of building or project is going to go up there,” said Jan Boyarzin, 45th Avenue resident. She also figured the town’s new senior lodge would be going there.
She feels 45 Avenue isn’t in good shape and is concerned how increased traffic would further degrade the road. “If there’s a large project there, it’s not like building a house, there’s going to be a lot of noise, there’s a lot of children and little kids on that road.”
Other concerns expressed were whether the parcel would be a good place for the seniors’ lodge, as they would have to cross Highway 53 for many amenities, including the community centre, Pas Ka Poo Park and the hospital; drainage issues of the land; and whether they felt that location was appropriate for IPU.
Jim Moore asked council if they knew what the rezoned IPU land would be for, specifically mentioning the seniors’ housing development. “Do you know what the intent of the developer is here?”
“Anything that happens with negotiations for that are protected by the MGA (Municipal Government Act) and we are not at liberty to speak about that, the developer and or who the buyer is. It’s against the law for us to speak out at this time,” said Pankiw.
“As to what’s going on that property I don’t know. I don’t know what the seller’s going to do with it,” he added.
Boyarzin also asked council when they would know what was going to be developed on the land. “Well I guess we would find that out if council gave the rezoning the second and third reading and then the developer, if he was to sell it to somebody, at that time, they would come out and say whoever the buyer is and would make it known to town. They would need a development permit from the town, so at that time it would then become public knowledge,” said Pankiw.
However, County CAO Charlie Cutforth says there have been discussions between the town and the county and “absolutely” the town knew what it was to be used for. “Once the agreement is signed, hey it’s public.”
“Why wouldn’t they let the people know? And the town has known right from day one. There’s no secret about it,” he added.
Cutforth confirmed that the southern parcel is the 8.54 acres the county purchased on Feb. 27, costing $310,000, for the seniors’ lodge. “I did know they had to get it rezoned.”
“Once the offer is signed I have no problems. If we were still in negotiations it would be confidential,” he added.
Stan Cummings, owner and developer who sold the land to Ponoka County, also attended the Town of Rimbey meeting. “I’m here to clarify a few things. There were rumors and stuff like that going around that I made a deal with this town to sell land to the county of Ponoka. That’s a falsehood. I never made any deal with this town.”
“The second thing is I’ve applied rezoning for a piece of property, and that’s all I’ve done to this stage,” he added.
Cutforth says while the land negotiations with Johnson Estates were ongoing Cummings tried to contact him, but he refused to communicate at that time because of continuing negotiations.