Final push for Shantz Crossing
There are eight houses in the 100 block of Morris Meadows Place. Four of them have for sale signs. A little further down 25 Avenue in another cul-de-sac, at least two other residents have put their houses up for sale this year.
The backyards of all of these homes face Shantz Crossing, the new 45-acre heavy industrial and business park under construction in the town’s north end across Highway 582.
For some homeowners, the prospect of enduring months of noisy construction, and a future living next door to a noisy and potentially unsightly industrial park, not only fuels frustration but a sense of betrayal.
“I’m not happy about it. We moved here in 2008 when it wasn’t Shantz Crossing yet. We were told that there would be little chance of development,” said homeowner Vince Hannah, who lives in a beautiful new home in the 200 block of Morris Meadows. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes an issue. I am shocked anyone would put up a heavy industrial park next to a residential area.”
Despite the gloomy feelings of some homeowners in Morris Meadows, Shantz Crossing is moving ahead at full steam. Construction of the site’s infrastructure – a new road into the park, and deep and shallow services, including a stormwater management pond – is scheduled to be completed this fall.
Most importantly, the town is expected to jump its final bureaucratic and legal hurdle this week in making Shantz Crossing the financial saviour of Didsbury it is envisioned to be.
On July 11, the town is making an application to the Municipal Planning Commission to subdivide the park into 10 parcels. Sizes of these parcels will range from just under two acres up to just over 10 acres. The lots are being offered at prices between $162,000 and $169,000 an acre.
“Right now we are talking to quite a few potential buyers,” said Karen Henry, the town’s manager of planning and infrastructure. “But without the land titles on separate lots it is difficult to finalize the sales.”
The town is making its move on Shantz Crossing in spite of loud and significant protests throughout the community that Didsbury cannot afford the $3.8-million project when its taxes are already believed by many to be too high and a significant portion of the municipality’s current infrastructure, particularly roads, sidewalks and sewer lines, are in dire need of upgrades.
“Shantz Crossing is just the tip of the iceberg. It is the scapegoat for all their (town council) bad judgments,” said Rick Lavigne, a former mayoralty candidate who has just finished a petition campaign to have the provincial government conduct a forensic audit on the town’s finances. “It is a white elephant.”
But town officials believe new commercial and industrial tenants, expected to arrive in the fall, will ultimately correct the gross inequity between residential and commercial tax revenues. Didsbury’s residential tax revenues now account for 89 per cent of the town’s income compared to 11 per cent for commercial and industrial.
Town officials repeatedly note that provincial studies and statistics show that in order for a municipality to be sustainable it has to have a 70 per cent residential and 30 per cent commercial and industrial tax revenue structure.
“We need industrial in the town. We have to make tough decisions,” said Coun. Rick Mousseau. “Shantz Crossing is the best thing to come to us. It will get our tax base built up on the commercial side.
“Some people say we are taking a risk. I think it is a good risk in the long term,” added the retired fire chief.
But for residents of Morris Meadows Place who are trying to figure out their futures living next door to a heavy industrial park, there is ongoing doubt and concern.
“The biggest frustration is that I didn’t know anything until a year ago when they parked the Shantz Crossing trailer on the site,” said Hannah. “It is too late now. I can’t see them stopping.
“There was no consultation with me,” he added. “I can’t imagine my opinion counting for anything.”