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Turtle Crossing zoning gets municipal approval

The AG Steel site where a proposed commercial retail and office space develpment is taking shape has received the municipal zoning approval it needs to move forward. Due to the property
The AG Steel site where a proposed commercial retail and office space develpment is taking shape has received the municipal zoning approval it needs to move forward. Due to the property's close proximity to Highway 97 the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will now consider the zoning ammendment for its final approval.
— image credit: Bobbi-Sue Menard

If you have ever edged the front of your vehicle out onto Oceola Road while your cup of Tim Horton’s coffee steams beside you then the zoning process to the Official Community Plan for Turtle Crossing will be of interest.  At issue is the re-zoning of the AG Steel site to a retail mall.  The amendment was passed by Council with some disagreement about the appropriateness of commercial development in that location and concerns about traffic.

By passing the OCP zoning amendment, Council forwarded the application to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for approval as the property is adjacent to Hwy 97.

The first point of contention was traffic.  The development plan currently calls for the main entrance to the developed property to be on Oceola Road.  Councilors were concerned by consultant engineering reports that the intersection would be created directly across from the entrance to the existing mall.  The traffic pressures could lead to a ‘grade F’ (failure) of the intersection in as as early as a decade, but most likely longer.

The consultant’s proposal was to eventually install a median on Oceola Road preventing customers of the current businesses in the Mall from turning left onto Hwy 97, instead drivers would have to go up and around on Pretty Road.  With the short distance between Hwy 97 and the proposed intersection causing further concern, Councilors pressed hard to have alternate access for the potential development come off of Pretty Road.  The amendment was adjusted to reflect those concerns and the proposed development should have at least easement for Pretty Road access.

Objections to the development on the face of the application were raised by Councilor Noreen Guenther who cited the recently completed Official Community Plan. “I do honor the decisions of Council but maybe it wasn’t the best planning decision for that location,” says Guenther.

Her concerns focused on spreading out the shopping area of Lake Country instead of focusing on building up Main Street as a walk-able centralized shopping destination. “In the OCP we don’t want Lake Country to look like a North American strip mall,” contends Guenther. “I don’t think this is in the best interests of the community.”

Mayor Baker disagrees, “The OCP does have language written in to support the Town Centre.  But the main principle is to diversify the tax base.  Our biggest industry is agriculture and we can’t sterilize the rest of the community while we wait for Main Street.  That [Main Street] business will come, but if we don’t allow development other than Town Centre we will never diversify.”

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