Bottom line on industrial area expansion: it’s expensive!

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Slave Lake and the M.D. of Lesser Slave River teamed up to hire somebody to look into the idea of developing a new industrial park on the edge of town. After a lot of study, a lot of comparing of options and so on, the inescapable bottom line is that it would be very (very!) expensive to do.

For example, for the preferred site – which would be more or less south of Hwy. 2 and east of Holmes Trail – off-site servicing costs are estimated to range from $4.6 million to $8.5 million. That’s just to get water, sewer and roads up to the edge of the development. On-site servicing, which brings those (plus lighting) services to individual lots, is another estimated $3.2 million.

These estimates are all for what the study calls ‘Site 3.’ Two other locations were considered, but not in as much detail because they aren’t considered as suitable.

Site 3 comprises 200 acres, in the general vicinity of the vehicle inspection station and M.D. office.

Two scenarios were presented. In one, the town and M.D. act as developer, which would see them bear all of the above costs. A second scenario would be private, for-profit development of the actual lots. The municipalities would be responsible for the off-site upgrades. That expenditure could be recovered through off-site levies, the report says, but at an estimated $139,000 per hectare, it would “very likely have a negative effect.”

Is there a demand for more industrial land? The consultant thinks so. Demand is “likely to rapidly outstrip the remaining supply in the near future,” the report says, “particularly given the disconnect between the nature of the remaining supply and the parcel-specific preferences articulated by local stakeholders.”

The report goes on to say a new industrial park is likely necessary, “if the town aims to retain growth of existing companies or attract future growth.” Financially, though, it found the servicing costs would make the site “unappealing” to developers if they had to pay the full off-site servicing costs; no less appealing would be the town (I.e. taxpayers) having to bear that expense.

What’s left is the possibility of developing the site to a lower, less costly service level. The final recommendation in the report was that the consultant, the engineering firm and the two municipalities talk it over and see if they can come up with “a lower-cost development vision.”

Councillor Shawn Gramlich had a comment on that idea.

“I don’t know how we could make it any cheaper,” he said, without coming up with something that people don’t want. He was referring to lots without water and sewer connections, and maybe gravel roads vs. paved ones. We have those lots already, he said, “and those are the ones that aren’t selling.”

Good point, said CAO Jeff Simpson, pointing to industrial lots with on-site water and sewer storage that the town is now having to pay to extend services to. At much higher cost than it would have been initially, he pointed out.

Council accepted the report as information, but that wasn’t enough for Councillor Brice Ferguson.

“I don’t want to lose track of this,” he said, and made a motion that the topic be put on the agenda for the next Inter-Municipal Committee meeting.

The three areas considered for future industrial area expansion in a Town of Slave Lake study.

Share this post

Post Comment