(More from the mayor’s forum last Friday night.)
Asked how they’d handle infrastructure needs to meet future growth, Sylvan Lake’s three mayoral candidates expressed a number of ideas.
“We need to change the tax base,” said Sean McIntyre. “The residential tax base is 83 per cent, non-residential (commercial and industrial) is 13 per cent. When we build anything new, residents are paying. We need to promote and upgrade growth in industrial and commercial.”
He noted infrastructure is not just roads, sewers and water, but also recreation and culture. “Inasmuch as we plan for our growth, we’re in tune with the community, if you see a need let us know.”
Balancing the tax base to help with infrastructure is going to be a challenge, he admitted.
“We need to plan it and they will come,” said Melesa Starcheski. “Developers will build. Put rules in place so they can get permits quickly. The town needs to annex more land, we’re growing at nine per cent per year. At that rate we’re going to be double quickly. We need business people to do what they do, plan where industrial will be, where commercial will be, be a support to our community.”
Susan Samson said the town has reserves and a 10 year capital plan developed with information from the community at open houses and through community needs assessments.
“Property tax is not the solution for growth. We need to build stronger relationships with our neighbours, ensure everybody (county and summer village residents) are paying their fair share. We need more resources from the province to ensure the kind of communities we build in this province are vibrant, innovative communities.”
During rebuttal, Samson said there are plans in place for annexation. The town has developed a Growth Strategy and Intermunicipal Development Plan with Red Deer County. “Growth right now is between four and five per cent. One of the challenges is groundwater.” Current estimates are there’s enough through the town’s wells to look after a population of 18,000. “We need to go to the river. It’s all very fine and well to annex, but if you can’t provide water …” An answer will have to be found by 2023, within the next 10 years, she suggested.