Fort Macleod council last week delivered its response to a report it received in June from the economic development commission.
Council went into closed session at the end of its regular meeting Aug. 26 to discuss its response.
When council came out of closed session, it unanimously voted in favour of the 14-page response, which was then delivered Thursday to the EDC.
That response is available in its entirety here as a PDF.
The EDC prepared its report based on discussions with business owners and citizens and input received at a May 15 public meeting at Holy Cross Hall.
The EDC intended the report to help council in its decision making when it comes to economic development.
In its report the EDC found the majority in both residential and business communities want growth
“Council and town staff are fully committed to growth and work diligently to enhance the opportunities for growth,” council wrote in its response to the EDC, listing as an example its decision to hire a consultant to develop a marketing strategy for Fort Macleod with an emphasis on a new industrial and business park.
Council also pointed out that in the spring it commissioned studies on areas of potential growth such as the former police college site, land behind Extra Foods, the east end of 12th Street and the property south of Highway 3 on the west side of town.
“Council’s goal is to ensure we have opportunities available in all sectors, with the focus on industrial growth to promote jobs that will drive the residential and commercial growth,” council wrote in its response.
Council addressed rumours of the Town of Fort Macleod blocking hotels, industry or businesses from coming to town.
“These rumors are absolutely false,” council wrote. “Council and staff always work to secure any opportunity.”
The EDC in its report noted people expressed frustration with the Town of Fort Macleod’s development process, listing issues such as lack of fairness, openness, clarity, and communication failures.
“Council and administration are aware of some of the frustration,” council responded.
The town will outline the development process so people know time lines, noting the process is set out by the Alberta Planning Act and other governing bodies.
Council in its response addressed concerns about clarity and communication as well as the length of time in the development process.
“Town staff constantly work to improve and streamline the process,” council wrote, noting that in 2006 the development officer’s position was increased from half-time to full-time.
Council also noted the quickest a development permit can be issued is 17 days and a building permit takes an additional seven to 10 working days, which means it takes a minimum of 25 days to get both permits to start a project. On average it takes 30 days to get both, followed by a 14-day appeal period.
Council in its response discussed comments in the EDC’s report regarding Fort Macleod’s location at the junction of Highway 2 and Highway 3, the town’s large land base, historic downtown and the town’s friendly atmosphere.
Council agreed with the EDC’s report that the Town of Fort Macleod’s Web site must be updated and maintained.
Council also agreed there is a need for a land and lot catalogue, which is now being prepared.
In its report the EDC wrote Fort Macleod needs a vision and economic development plan based on community input. Council pointed out a process is under way for a plan, a new land use by-law is being developed and the municipal development plan must be updated.
Council agreed there is a need for elected officials, town staff and the EDC to work together.
In response to the EDC’s comment Fort Macleod needs an experienced economic development officer, council noted a new job description is being finalized and someone could be hired by the end of September.
Council noted it spends more than $115,000 a year on economic development, $73,000 of which is for salaries.
“We want to ensure we are getting the best value for that investment,” council noted.
Council in its response addressed at length comments and concerns noted in the EDC’s report. Many of these issues were covered in a letter to the editor from Mayor Shawn Patience in August.
Council’s response concludes: “We believe our managers to be competent and our council is certainly focused. Our staff and council members have a strong desire to promote economic growth in our community and ensure that desire is reflected in their budgeting, policies and by-laws. Working together we can continue to forge a bright future for our community by taking advantage of the opportunities in front of us. And that is good news.”