Review of the Rocky View County Land Inventory and Residential Development Capacity report and its consequence on the County Plan

Review of the Rocky View County Land Inventory and Residential Development Capacity report and its consequence on the County Plan

Rocky View County produced a report in 2012 (dated September 5, 2012) called Land Inventory and Residential Development Capacity (the “Report”).  The Report attempted to estimate the amount of housing that could be built if development proceeds according to approved County plans and policy.

It concludes that within areas with approved plans or policy allowing development, 40,359 new dwellings could be built, and that based on the 20-year development rate of 344 units per year, land availability in the County is in a position to meet market demands.  The Report is important because it is the foundation for the new County Plan.  It is therefore no coincidence that the County Plan has set annual growth limits of about 330 residential units.

The Report however, is a quantitative analysis.  It lacks a detailed examination of product type (size and zoning), location, serviceability, cost to produce, or a combination of these factors that would affect the future marketability of the product.

The fundamental question of this critique is: “Are the 17 Hamlets and Residential Communities identified in the Plan as growth areas, marketable and/or serviceable to meet the Plan’s modest growth targets of 2.5 to 3.0% of regional growth?

Using information from the Report, this critique will review each of the 17 Hamlets and Residential communities identified as growth areas in the County Plan, and their likely contribution to regional growth over the next 10 to 12 years.  Product type, location, serviceability will be reviewed to forecast future growth potential.

East Growth Areas

 Growth in the eastern portion of the County is targeted for the Hamlets of; Kathryn, Delacour, Dalroy, Conrich, Langdon, and Indus.

All of these areas have major servicing issues.  The topography on the east side of the County is very flat which requires the use of lift stations in conjunction with gravity sewer mains to transport treated waste water.  Storm water servicing options are expensive due to the lack of receiving streams in close proximity, however local developers are working together to seek other storm water servicing solutions.  Sources for potable water are very limited.

From a product market acceptance point of view, Langdon will continue to be successful due to the affordable nature of the housing product in close proximity to the light industrial on the east side of Calgary.  It has established sufficient mass to provide future buyers with some confidence that commercial services and recreational amenities will be available in the future.  The other identified Hamlets will have difficulty competing with affordable communities in Calgary that offer more services and amenities.  Higher end housing will tend to situate in Chestermere, because of the lack of competing product in the area and also because of the available amenities (shopping, recreation etc.) and the proximity of Stoney Trail.  Acreage product will not likely meet with much acceptance on this side of Calgary.  Aside from the servicing constraints, limited views, flat topography and the industrial nature of the east side of Calgary has traditionally made this side of Rocky View less attractive for residential development.

A more detailed analysis of each of the east growth areas is discussed below.

Kathyrn

A Conceptual Scheme was approved on September 4, 2007 which would allow up to 2,150 residential units to be built.  Only 9 have been built in the last six years.  Aside from the servicing constraints, this area will have a difficulty competing with new northeast communities of Redstone, Skyview Ranch and Cityscape.  Kathyrn has failed to develop sufficient momentum in the last six years to provide future buyers with confidence that commercial services and recreational amenities will be available in the future.

It is expected that growth will remain at the historical average of about one residential unit per year for the next 10 to 12 years.

Delacour

The Delacour Community ASP covers approximately 1,204 acres and has been in effect since May 6th, 2006. The majority of the ASP has not been given land use and development has not begun.  The fact that no development has progressed in seven years is very telling.  Aside from the servicing constraints to develop this area, it has traditionally not attracted new residents in significant numbers, and there is very little likelihood that the community would grow to a point that it could support commercial services and recreational amenities.

It is expected that growth will remain at the historical average of about 1 residential unit per year for the next 10 to 12 years.

Dalroy

The Dalroy Community ASP covers approximately 636 acres and has been in effect since May 6th, 2006. The majority of the ASP has not been given land use and development has not begun.  The fact that no development has progressed in seven years is very telling.  Aside from the servicing constraints to develop this area, it has traditionally not attracted new residents in significant numbers, and there is very little likelihood that the community would grow to a point that it could support commercial services and recreational amenities.

It is expected that growth will remain at the historical average of about 1 residential unit per year for the next 10 to 12 years.

Conrich

Conrich is the site of the CN Logistics Park, developed to enhance its’ transportation service delivery within Western Canada.  This is a great addition to Rocky View from a commercial point of view, but there is not likely to be any significant residential development at this location within the 10 to 12 year planning timeline.

Growth over the planning timeline may be the same as the historical average of the Calgary / Chestermere ASP, at 6 units per year.

Langdon

The Hamlet of Langdon ASP covers approximately 1,245 acres and has been in effect since April 27, 1999. The Hamlet of Langdon has seen steady growth and is approaching full build out.  There are about 1,400 residential units in Langdon with a potential for 900 more units subject to adequate servicing.

Langdon will continue to be successful due to the affordable nature of the housing product in close proximity to the light industrial on the east side of Calgary.  It has established sufficient mass to provide future buyers with some confidence that commercial services and recreational amenities will be available in the future.

A 3% growth to the existing population, would translate to about 42 units per year.

Indus

The Hamlet of Indus ASP covers approximately 605 acres and has been in effect since November 9, 2004. The majority of the ASP has not been given land use and development has not begun.

The County has indicated that they will not likely review the existing ASP for update until demand for growth in Indus is happening.

A Conceptual Scheme with Industrial Land Use for the 500 acre Fulton Industrial Park was approved in 2011 for limited services development.  This development is located east of Highway 791 and north of Highway 22X close to the Hamlet.  It is anticipated that business development within the Park will generate a demand for housing that could be provided in the Hamlet subject to provision of municipal water and sewer and resolution of storm water issues.

Based on the servicing restrictions on the east side of the County, and the availability of competing product in Calgary and Chestermere, the forecast residential growth for the East side of Rocky View County for the next 10 years is shown on the following table.

Projected Growth on the East Side of Rocky View County

2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Kathryn 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Delacour 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Dalroy 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Conrich 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6
Langdon 42 42 42 42 42 42 42 42 42 42
Indus 0 0 0 0 4 4 6 6 10 10
TOTAL 51 51 51 51 55 55 57 57 61 61

 

The majority of areas targeted for growth on the East Side will contribute very little new housing over the next ten years due to significant servicing constraints.  Langdon is likely to make a modest contribution to regional growth.

 

Central Growth Areas

 Balzac West

The residential communities of Balzac West and Balzac East have been designated as growth areas in the County Plan.

The Balzac West ASP covers approximately 3,982 acres, and is located in the north-central region of Rocky View County.  The Area Structure Plan has been approved since 2007 and no development has taken place to date.  In 2007 land governed by the ASP was annexed to Calgary, and in 2010 additional lands were annexed to Airdrie.  The majority of the ASP has not been given land use and development has not begun.

The Balzac West Area Structure Plan requires the formulation of a Master Drainage Plan in order to provide an environmentally sound basis for a comprehensive stormwater management system within the Plan Area.  The Area Structure Plan intends to phase out the use of individual groundwater wells and private wastewater disposal systems within the entire plan area.  All future Conceptual Schemes within West Balzac shall require that all development connect to full municipal sewer and water services.  It is expected to take several years to coordinate a servicing solution with land owners such that development could start.

The low projected density of 4.0 units per acre for the plan, does not meet Calgary’s criteria of 8 to 10 units per acre to extend servicing.  Given the low density, it may be difficult for housing product within Balzac West to compete with the adjacent communities of Calgary and Airdrie based on price.  A feature anchor amenity may be required to draw people to this area.

Development of these lands is probably years away.  Given the low density targets, lack of natural attributes, and servicing hurdles, it is expected that minimal residential development will occur in Balzac West over the next 10 years.

Balzac East

The Balzac East ASP covers approximately 9,883 acres, and is located in the north-central region of Rocky View County. It has been in effect since September 26, 2000.  The desirability for residential housing is impacted by industrial development, the Calgary Airport, and the Balzac Gas Plant.

Residential development in the Balzac East ASP area likely will be slowed due to lack of adequate servicing solutions for water and storm water.

The forecast residential growth for the Central Growth areas (Balzac West and Balzac East) for the next 10 years is shown on the following table.

Projected Growth for the Central Growth Areas within Rocky View County

2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Balzac West 0 0 0 0 0 20 20 20 20 20
Balzac East 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
TOTAL 8 8 8 8 8 28 28 28 28 28

 

Given the servicing hurdles, it is expected that minimal residential development will occur in the Central Growth Areas.

West Growth Areas

Cochrane Lake Hamlet

The Cochrane Lake Hamlet Plan ASP covers approximately 865 acres located in the north-west region of Rocky View County. It has been in effect since May 31, 2011. The majority of the ASP has not been given land use and development has not begun.

Only 147 dwellings have been built and there are 152 build ready lots.  The development is currently in bankruptcy.  Prospects for future sales are dismal given the new areas that have opened up in Cochrane which provides local commercial services and is a closer commute to Calgary.

It is forecast that the 152 build ready lots will be constructed over the next ten years, i.e. 15 lots per year.

Cochrane North ASP

The Cochrane North ASP covers approximately 6,322 acres located in the north-west region of Rocky View County.  It has been in effect since July 3, 2007. The future rate of development is expected to be similar to the average rate over the last 20 years, being 5 dwellings per year.  Prospects for future sales are dismal given the new areas that have opened up in Cochrane which is a closer commute to Calgary and provides local services (shopping, recreation etc.)

Harmony

The Harmony development proposes approximately 3,500 units on 1,748 acres.  The plan calls for a variety of housing forms to address several price points.  There will also be substantial commercial and retail development, a lake and a golf course.  Harmony is in close proximity of the recently approved Bingham Crossing project.

The developer has stated that they will start construction of the project this year and has lot purchase commitments from home builders.  They forecast sales of 220 units in the first year, and about 180 lot sales per year thereafter.  However, like any new project, Harmony will go through a pioneering stage as it tries to ramp up sales.

Even if the development starts in 2013, lots would not be available for house construction until late 2014, with first occupancies occurring in 2015.

Using the developer’s projections for starts, home occupations are projected and shown on the chart on page 11.

Bragg Creek

It is expected that the rate of development could reach the area average rate of 14 new dwellings per year once potable water and wastewater servicing is available.  Therefore starting in 2015, an average of 14 new dwellings is projected to be built per year in Bragg Creek.

Greater Bragg Creek ASP

The Greater Bragg Creek ASP covers approximately 11,800 acres and has been in effect since February 27, 2007.  The average rate of development over the last 20 years has been 14 new dwellings per year, although demand has dropped to 5 units or less since 2002 as can be seen on the following graph.

It is expected that the rate of development will remain at about 4 units per year for the next 10 years, as demand shifts to Bragg Creek which will provide potable water and wastewater servicing and has many services close at hand.

Bearspaw

The Bearspaw ASP covers approximately 32,879 acres and has been in effect since January 18, 1994.

Demand for acreage lots has dropped significantly in the last several years as can be seen on the following graph.

It is forecast that demand for acreage lots will average about 15 per year for the next 10 years.  This type of product is losing favour in the marketplace with aging baby boomers looking for more lock-and-go style housing.

The development of Watermark has about 108 built homes with another 452 to be built.  It is forecast that an average of 80 homes will be built each year until completion.  The total demand therefore in the Bearspaw area will be about 95 units per year for the next 5 years and will ramp down to about 15 units per year thereafter as Watermark’s inventory is depleted.

North Springbank

The North Springbank ASP covers approximately 3,985 acres and has been in effect since May 4, 1999. The majority of the ASP has not been given land use and development has not begun.  Only 11 dwellings have been built in the last 20 years.  The proximity to the airport is probably the biggest hurdle for consumers looking for acreage style development.  It is forecast that only one dwelling per year will be built at this location over the next 10 years.

Central Springbank

Central Springbank ASP covers approximately 20,514 acres and has been in effect since October 2, 2001. As can be seen on the following graph, demand for acreage development at this location has dramatically dropped over the last several years.

This type of product is losing favour in the marketplace with aging baby boomers looking for more lock-and-go style housing.  As well, most of the best locations for high end acreage development have been taken.  It is forecast that demand for this product will average about 15 lots per year for the next 10 years.

Elbow Valley

The Elbow Valley ASP covers approximately 1,266 acres and has been in effect since May 27, 1997. The Elbow Valley ASP has been largely built out (see graph below), however Elbow Valley West has approximately 40 serviced lots primarily held by individuals.  These are expected to be built on over the next three years.

Despite the rapid rate of development of Elbow Valley, and continuing demand for this style of development, the county Plan has not provided for any replacement product along the Highway 8 corridor.

The forecast residential growth for the West Growth Area for the next 10 years is shown on the following table.

2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Cochrane Lake Hamlet 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15
Cochrane North ASP 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5
Harmony 0 0 100 120 180 180 180 180 190 190
Bragg Creek 0 0 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14
Greater Bragg Creek ASP 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Bearspaw 95 95 95 95 95 67 15 15 15 15
North Springbank 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Central Springbank 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15
Elbow Valley 14 13 13 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TOTAL 149 148 262 269 329 301 249 249 259 259

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watermark and Harmony are the major contributors to new housing within the West Growth Areas.

Watermark will account for over 50% of the housing starts in the West Growth Areas.  As Watermark’s inventory depletes, Harmony is expected to ramp up and will responsible for about 75% of the new housing on the west side of the County.

The total project lot demand in rocky view county over the next 10 years is shown on the following table.

2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
East Growth Area 51 51 51 51 55 55 57 57 61 61
Central Growth Area 8 8 8 8 8 28 28 28 28 28
West Growth Area 149 148 202 189 229 221 209 249 289 289
TOTAL   208 207 261 248 292 304 294 334 378 378

 

Conclusion

It is forecast that the County will only meet its modest growth target of about 330 residential units per year in about 7 years.  Servicing constraints, falling demand for existing acreage product on the west side of the County, and challenging locations for residential growth on the eastside of the County are major factors.

The East and Central Growth areas representing 8 of the 17 designated growth areas in the County Plan, will only account for 25% to 30% of the County’s growth over the next ten years, with Langdon being the major contributor.  Major servicing constraints are the biggest hurdle to opening up new areas for development.

Watermark and Harmony are the major contributors to new housing within the West Growth Areas.  Watermark will account for over 50% of the housing starts in the West Growth Areas in the short term.  As Watermark’s inventory depletes, Harmony is expected to ramp up and will responsible for approximately 60% of the entire County’s growth in about 9 years.  If for some reason Harmony does not meet with forecast market acceptance, the County’s growth will be drastically reduced.  Stagnant growth areas identified in the County Plan, especially on the West Side, will be vulnerable to annexation.

The County should prepare its own opportunities and constraint analysis to satisfy itself that it will fall short of their target share of regional demand.

Rocky View 2020 believes that new projects that are relevant to the marketplace and can be readily serviced will need to be considered, encouraged, and accommodated.  Limiting consumer options to the existing approved ASP’s and concept Schemes is the wrong approach and should not be the basis on which growth is addressed in the County

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