WESTLOCK – Westlock County is looking to breathe new life into its industrial park as part of a multi-phase approach which will start with a feasibility study.
Following an in-camera discussion at their Oct. 12 meeting, the final of their four-year mandate, county councillors agreed to allocate $110,000 from the municipality’s industrial park reserve to fund a study on the 18-year-old park. CAO Kay Spiess said the effort will aim to catalogue what’s in place currently and then offer suggestions as to what to do next at the 100-acre site.
At the same meeting, councillors voted 6-0 to contribute $444,000 to an Alberta Transportation plan for upgrades to Highway 44 in 2022 which will see the addition of new turning lanes, a traffic light and the closure of two of the park’s exits/entrances — see more on that story in next week’s edition.
“It will take a look at our servicing there, our lot sizes, market prices and many different components to the area and give us some actual concrete data and technical analysis on what to do with the park,” Spiess explained.
“And then to design an actual plan and a vision for that area instead of piecemealing it … instead of what’s been done for the last 15 or so years.”
The park has a checkered history, starting with the county spending $1 million to purchase the land in 2003, to the fact they’ve never been able to secure town water and sewer service, to questionable land transactions over the years including the 2015 deal with Horizon North Camp & Catering Partnership — a shady deal authored by then CAO Peter Kelly and singled out in the 2017 Municipal Inspection Report that wound up costing the county an estimated $200,000. Those facts aside, the park has seen moderate success and is home to the municipality's public works shop, as well as a number of high-profile businesses like CropMaxx, the Alberta Trappers Association, Emcom Services, Wild Rose REA and Pentagon, which was the first major commercial tenant.
Spiess called the park “a ticket to bring revenue to our region” noting its continued development fits in well with the aim of the regional economic development committee that includes reps from the town and Village of Clyde.
“I’m really, really gung-ho on this. But we have to be smart about it. And we have to have all of our ducks in a row and it has to be well thought out,” she added. “It will be up to the new council to really want to have a foot in economic development.”
Spiess envisions a multi-phase approach which she hopes will begin to bear fruit in the next few months. She even teased the possibility of other innovative ideas to encourage more businesses to move to the site.
“The sooner the better. I’m hoping to see something within six months, but I don’t think a full ASP (area structure plan) will be done in that timeframe because there’d be public consultation and things like that,” she continued. “The project will be broken down into phases, so the first phase is to look at how feasible the industrial park is and what needs to be invested in it. And I don’t see why we can’t have that done in three months, maybe sooner to be honest.
“The second phase will be contingent on the first phase. After the first part it’ll come back and we’ll discuss it with council and see what kind of commitment there would be. Then we would move into the second phase, which would be more of technical analysis where we’d map out all the lots, survey things and other things and then look at an actual area structure plan.”