Fort Macleod’s successful bid for the $100-million Alberta Police and peace Officer Training Centre has not brought the town’s mayor any peace.
Shawn Patience now finds himself consumed with thoughts of how to meet the challenges that will be presented by the town’s growth.
“I’ve been waking up at 2 a.m. every night because my head is just spinning,” Patience said.
Fort Macleod is already changing with the police college announcement just two weeks old.
Council has revised its land sale policies and is beginning a review of the municipal development plan to prepare for the town’s anticipated growth.
“We’ve got an incredible amount of growth we’re about to see in our community,” Patience said. “We want to take advantage of that without losing the quality of life and the character of the town.”
Construction of the $100-million police college, which will create 75 to 100 permanent jobs and bring into town 1,500 recruits each year, is expected to boost the town’s population to 4,000 to 5,000.
Other commercial and industrial development that is on the immediate horizon, coupled with realignment of Highways 2 and 3, will also influence growth.
“That’s a challenge,” Patience said. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
One of the first projects council will undertake is developing a new residential subdivision in the northeast corner of town. Forty-six expressions of interest have already been received for the 36 lots in the subdivision’s first phase.
That interest in housing prompted council to change its land sale policy to a 45-day grace period after a 10 per cent down payment is made. Previously people had 12 months to decide whether they would build.
“Our goal is not to develop lots,” Patience explained. “Our goal is to develop property.”
That 45-day commitment period, which is common policy in other towns and cities, will be extended to commercial and industrial property to prevent speculators from tying up land.
“There are new strategic policies that are going to move us forward,” Patience said.
Patience said council also can’t waste any time changing its plan for long-term growth.
“The first thing we’ve got to do is re-develop our municipal development plan so we’re not blindly going into the future,” Patience said.
The mayor wants that document, which will invite community input, in place by the end of the year.
Livingstone-Macleod MLA Dave Coutts encouraged the more than 500 people gathered Saturday night at the community hall to enjoy the celebration.
“Recognize that Monday morning our town is going to change, just a little bit because we’re going to start thinking about our place in the world,” Coutts said. “In the world, ladies and gentlemen. That’s how big this training college is going to be.”
Council will not work in isolation in changing policies and making plans to guide the town’s growth.
“We made the commitment to continue the community engagement process the whole way through,” Patience said.
The mayor was referring to the way in which a community task force was struck to prepare the bid, and residents were invited to support the project by writing letters and attending rallies.
“The task force made the commitment it will stay in place,” Patience noted. “We will have a sort of welcome wagon for the college.”
Word of community involvement is good news to Stasha Donahue, a task force member who also works in the population health department of Chinook Health.
“This whole process has enabled us to engage people to work together,” Donahue said of the college bid. “That can only be good for the health of the community in the long run.” Donahue said studies indicate social engagement is key to the long-term sustainability of a community.
“Even if we didn’t get the police college, people are now committed to our community,” Donahue said.
Patience said the presence of the college ensures a bright future for the community.
“Fort Macleod is going to prosper,” Patience said. “We are going to maintain the quality of life we have here.”
The town office is already being inundated with calls from entrepreneurs and individuals interested in relocating to Fort Macleod.
“This is not the end,” Patience said of winning the bid. “This is just the beginning.”