To build or not to build… residential vs. commercial
People often ask me, “Why can’t the City stop approving residential and only approve commercial developments?”
Here’s the scoop. In Alberta, anyone who owns land, with a few exceptions, can develop it. Unless a municipality specifically purchases property to develop, the vast majority of land is privately-owned by developers, similar to how you own the property for your house. For municipalities with more than 3,500 people, the local government sets the rules around how land is developed through its Municipal Development Plan (MDP) and corresponding Land Use and Wetland Bylaws, design guidelines, etc.
The City doesn’t have the legal right to refuse residential development by a landowner if we’ve approved an area for it in our MDP. Our new MDP incorporates significant new commercial and industrial areas combined with residential growth. When the MDP was created, planners, landowners, developers, and the community contributed to finding the right balance of land use.
While the City identifies where different types of development will happen, we don’t specify a business name or chain, just the general type or acceptable use for a particular area, like restaurants, hardware stores or retail. We can make commercial applications a priority through our approval processes, but we can’t stop residential ones. And why would we want to when we need residents to attract and support businesses?
Businesses want to set up in an area with a significant customer base and where they can access workers. For the past 15 years, Chestermere has been expanding its commercial offerings. As our population increased, we were better able to attract and keep businesses open because there were more customers to support them. Larger companies, like hotels, look for a population closer to 20,000 to be sustainable. Because our community is that size now, we are getting more and more interest from different companies.
We are aiming to achieve a non-residential tax base of 20% in the long-term, and we’re certainly moving in that direction. In 2002, our population was roughly 3,700 people, and we had a handful of businesses. Today we have five different business centres, offering a variety of products and services. Residential and business growth go hand-in-hand, and while we consistently encourage commercial ventures to set up shop here, we still need people. As a financially sustainable community, further growing our commercial sector will allow us even more flexibility in what we can offer our residents in the future.
Mayor Patricia Matthews