Supporting continued growth by planning for future industrial land needs

Train tracks in Strathcona County, Alberta

Strathcona County is a founding member of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland, Canada’s largest hydrocarbon processing region and one of Canada’s most attractive locations for petrochemical, chemical, oil, and gas investments. The County has seen significant growth recently, including a 12.1% growth in population over the last five years. To support its growth and accommodate the  continued demand for heavy, medium, and light industrial facilities, Strathcona County  needed an industrial land strategy that addresses the increasingly complex environment of industrial development in which the County competes for investment. Of particular importance was identifying how much industrial growth the County needs to be able accommodate in the future and what types of policies would be needed to respond to and encourage this growth.

Based on an extensive review of the County’s context and a detailed industrial land inventory, MDB Insight, working with Watson and Associates Economists Ltd., undertook a land needs analysis and provided recommendations in an Industrial Land Strategy for the County.  The land needs analysis highlighted a longer term deficit in industrial lands for the County and identified additional challenges related to shovel readiness and industrial land availability in the County’s rural areas. The recommendations were all approved by County Council. These recommendations provide short, medium and long-term plans for ensuring that industrial lands in the County are developed in a way that will maximize future net benefit to the community. Benefits to the County will be based on:

  • creating quality jobs
  • maximizing value of land use
  • minimizing infrastructure and planning costs to the municipality and developers
  • ensuring consistent application of development standards
  • ensuring a long-term flow of taxation revenue from industrial property owners

Looking to the future

The Industrial Land Strategy also provides Strathcona County with 10, 20, and 30 year estimates of future land supply requirements and forecasted demand from light, medium, heavy and agri-industrial investors. This information forms a baseline level of data from which the County can complete longer-term planning activities and provides insight into actions that will encourage and accommodate future growth in the area. Because of the Industrial Land Strategy project, Strathcona County can now more effectively:

  • monitor industrial land inventory and land absorption
  • differentiate development potential of its industrial areas
  • consider the innovative approaches on dealing with lack of market choice in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland
  • eliminate land areas from future discussion and concentrate on those that are shown to have the greatest potential for investment
  • move ahead with changes to municipal development plans and by-laws
  • complete longer-term plans for industrial land development and new industrial land designation/zoning by type

“We were extremely pleased with the work done on this report. As a result, we are now positioned for success in setting out policy and process for Strathcona County industrial lands for the next 15-30 years. We found the consulting team very professional and brought best practices from across Canada for the final report. It is always nice to have a consultant presenting to council along with the team from Planning Development Services and Economic Development and Tourism” – Gerry Gabinet, Director.

Image via Flickr user bulliver (CC BY-SA 2.0)