On city administration’s recommendation, Chestermere City Council decided Sept. 4 to cancel the Webster Industrial Park project and sell the lands to a private developer.
“At this point in time it’s clear to us that a private developer would be the best move forward on that,” said City of Chestermere Mayor Marshall Chalmers of the decision to sell.
“We have to make sure that we’re protecting the financial resources of the city,” he said.
The recommendation to sell the industrial park lands came after an eight-month review of the project.
The review presented to council found that, “the total cost for the City to continue development of the Industrial Park would be higher than originally estimated due to regulatory changes and increased development costs.”
Based on the increased costs, if the city had chosen to continue with the project, it would have needed to borrow more money than originally planned for the development.
Further loans for the project would have put Chestermere in excess of its borrowing capacity, leading to the recommendation to sell the lands rather than pursue development of them.
“It’s clear to this council that it’s a great project but for a private developer and the city does not have the resources to act as a developer,” said Chalmers.
City of Chestermere Manager of Economic Development, Catherine Proulx said that the city doesn’t have the “efficiencies built into our framework to be able to develop the land as efficiently as someone in the private sector may.”
It is for this reason that Proulx believes that while a business park on the Webster lands is still a great opportunity.
“But it wasn’t necessarily a great fit for the city at this time,” she said.
The city will now be amending its contract with Colliers International, who had been retained to market the industrial park to potential businesses, to market and sell the project lands in their entirety.
“We’re hoping that we can sell the land quickly and get a developer whose interested and wants to move forward quickly,” said Proulx.
She said that the Webster Industrial Park lands are almost 100 acres.
“About 65-68 acres of that is developable,” she said.
“In the world of commercial and light industrial land and real estate our parcel is not huge,” said Proulx.
With the decision to sell, the city will begin work with Colliers to prepare a fair market price for the land.
“We have a commitment, fiduciary responsibility to the community to ensure we get the best price possible for the land,” said Proulx.
“So, we need to take into consideration…all the costs and everything that have been put into it to date and be comfortable with a price that we’re going to go to market with,” she said.
When a price is determined, it will be brought before city council for approval.
Despite the setback on the development of the Webster Industrial Park, Chalmers said that the city is still focused on increasing the commercial tax base.
“Our intention is to reach our goal following a different avenue,” he said.
“We’re not taking the foot off the gas pedal by any means it’s just that we’re doing it in a different way,” said Proulx.
She said that she and the Economic Development team will be focused on attracting new investment to Chestermere.
“We are definitely focused on marketing all of our industrial lands to perspective investors,” she said, “we’re just not going to be responsible for developing the land.”
“That’s part of what economic development does, we attract investment to the community,” said Proulx.
Former council candidate, Al Kersch said he supports the city’s decision to sell the industrial park lands.
“I thought that they went through a thoughtful deliberation, and it seems that they based their decision on some facts, and, you know, I think they’re going down the right road there,” he said.