It’s full steam ahead for the Airdrie Agricultural Society’s future home, to be located in one-and-a-half miles west of the city.
In a split vote, Rocky View County council approved an application to redesignate 149 acres of farmland, Sept. 7.
The rezoning will allow the development of a multi-use agricultural, rodeo and recreational complex.
“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Brenda Moon, president of Airdrie and District Agricultural Society, a non-profit society. “Now we will engage in a fundraising campaign as soon as possible.”
The facility, which will be built in phases, will include an RV campground, indoor BMX facility, barns, rodeo arena, outdoor riding arena, commercial retail units, heritage farm sites and a grandstand centre.
During the first phases of the project, holding tanks will be used to manage sewage, with future plans for on-site treatment, such as a septic field.
In the early stages, potable water will be trucked in, with the future goal of hooking up to a pipeline system, such as the Rocky View Water Co-op pipeline, or the City of Airdrie’s municipal service.
The first phase of construction will include the RV campground to help offset the cost of operations. A small commercial area will provide additional revenue.
The plan also includes a wetland and interpretive trails for public use.
“This facility will benefit people in the community,” said Reeve Lois Habberfield. “Approval today allows the group to go ahead with fundraising.”
During the consultation process, the County received 62 letters of support and 10 letters of concern.
The public hearing was well attended, with several local residents speaking both for and against the project.
Past president of the Calgary Stampede Bob Church spoke in support, saying the facility would offer alternative space for rodeo events.
“It’s only in a cooperative approach with all organizations that it (the Stampede) makes sense,” said Church. “This particular project fits that to a tee.”
Steve Fountain, former General Manager of the World Professional Chuckwagon Association agreed, saying the location would provide easier access for rodeo events and would likely attract high profile events.
“It will give a sense of pride for the community and a better venue to promote bigger events,” said Fountain. “There will be all kinds of spin-offs for the community.”
Local farmer and Agricultural Society member Ron Hanson said the organization spent four years looking for the ideal location and conducted hours of public consultation.
“I don’t know where you could get a better place to expand,” said Hanson. “This is agricultural and this land is the perfect transition from rural to urban.”
However, not all the neighbours agreed.
Donald Harrison owns a quarter section bordering on the development.
“I just don’t think this is the place for it, not in my backyard,” said Harrison. “This isn’t compatible to adjacent land uses in the area. This is farming land.”
Local resident Ron O’Neil said the development should be located in a commercial or growth node, as defined in the Growth Management Strategy.
“Was that document worth the rhetoric?” said O’Neil. “We are really setting ourselves up for commercial creep.”
Councillor Gordon Branson, who was in opposition to the redesignation, wanted to see the decision deferred until after the Reeve’s Task Force open houses are completed.
“You have an inspired vision…that will benefit the community at large,” said Branson. “But…we have heard concerns this is really a commercial venture at the onset.”
Branson also wanted to see servicing to the facility discussed at the Airdrie annexation talks, in hopes that through the bargaining process the County might be able to secure City servicing for the Society.
Councillor Harvey Buckley also voted against the redesignation.
Habberfield disagreed, saying it was important to give the organization approval so it can begin fundraising.
“We are not going to stop doing business on Tuesday based on the Task Force,” she said.
“This is an application that has widespread support. These people are going to build infrastructure for us, why would we get in their way?”