Parkland County has approved $105,000 to help mediate the process of annexation by the City of Spruce Grove.
The approval was given by unanimous vote at a regular council meeting on Tuesday.
The movement towards annexation came up through a City of Spruce Grove Growth Study completed last year.
The mediator would work with both municipalities to help come up with an amenable solution. If it goes to the municipal government board, it becomes an expensive and time consuming ordeal that could take up five years to mitigate.
“Through a mediator we believe we can solve this a lot more quickly, gain consensus and at the end, save the taxpayers of both municipalities a lot of money,” said Parkland County Mayor Rod Shaigec. “If it goes to the municipal government board, traditionally it has cost past municipalities in the neighbourhood of a million dollars each … it’s an expensive legal process to go through.”
The study took a look at Spruce Grove’s growth projections over the next 50 years, which is expected to exceed 120,000 by 2067. Spruce Grove had a population of 36,135 in the 2016 census, up 29.2 per cent since the previous census in 2011.
The growth study determined that the city requires 1,426 hectares (22.5 quarter sections) of additional land in order to meet those projections.
The area the study took into consideration is expansive, from just north of Highway 16 to 1.6 kilometres south of Highway 628. It also took into consideration the entirety of Stony plain in the west to the Wagner Natural Area boundary in the east.
A County council meeting in December identified several issues of concern for Parkland, key among them is the Acheson Industrial Park, an important regional asset and major employer in the area. The expansion would also potentially eat into prime available agriculture land, something that was recommended to the County that they should look to increase, not decrease, to further diversify the local economy. The County was also concerned about potential impact on sensitive environmental features and areas like the Wagner Natural Area.
“We certainly recognize Spruce Grove is experiencing some growth pressures and they do need to have some certainty in the shorter/medium time horizon, so we would like to get this resolved and hopefully we can get this resolved in a respectful manner which will benefit both municipalities.”