Time to bite the bullet on developer obligations, town council decides

Joe McWilliams

Lakeside Leader

The matter of servicing the west end of the so-called ‘joint school site’ was back before Slave Lake town council last week. It’s a complicated file with a long history and plenty of pushback from the developers.

As noted in an April 18 Lakeside Leader article, the matter was deferred, pending some updated cost estimates. With those in hand, council was now being asked to make a decision.

It was a reduced version of council, the same as the last time this was discussed. Three members declared a pecuniary interest and left the room, leaving the burden on the remaining four.

There are three items of financial obligation in the picture. For starters, the developers of the commercial lands west of the Cornerstone shopping centre are required to pay for the servicing of a lot designated for a public school. No plans exist at the moment for such a school, so the job continues to get deferred.

The problem with that, from the town’s point of view, is that the cost of doing the work continues to rise, and the security provided by the developers continues to become less adequate to cover it. The longer it goes, council heard, the more likely a default, meaning the whole thing would land on the general taxpayer.

The other amounts are $90,000 in off-site levies and about $450,000 in contribution for the development of Caribou Trail, south of Hwy. 2. The developers want to put off these payments until they sell more lots, and pay as the money comes in.

Councillor Shawn Gramlich moved that administration send a letter to the developers advising of the following: “The town will require the developers to provide an irrevocable letter of credit in the amount of $2,017,652.00 representing the shortfall in security (i.e., $1,017,652.00) as a result of current 2023 construction cost estimates and to replace the 397 encumbrance (i.e., $1,000,000.00).

“The town will require the developers to pay immediately the outstanding off-site levies in the amount of $90,464.14 and Caribou collector road charges in the amount of $454,380.06, based on the updated 2023 values.

“The town will agree to grant a five-year extension for the servicing of the west end of the joint school site to September 30, 2028, after which time no further extensions will be granted. The servicing of the west end of the joint school site is to be completed no later than September 30, 2028.

“The developers will be responsible for all costs associated with the preparation and registration of the required development agreement.”

Council voted in favour of the motion, 4 – 0. This was in spite of threats of legal action against the town, by the owners of the property.

More background on this story can be found online at lakesideleader.com. Once there, search for ‘Legacy Developments.’

One day a public school may be built on the land west of St. Francis School in Slave Lake. But who will end up paying to service the site?

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