By COLLIN GALLANT on March 8, 2022.
City council has tabled a plan to develop and market huge parcels of land in the northwest for heavy industry that could eventually encroach on the Medicine Hat Speedway, Dragstrip and three other clubs on city-owned land.
The NW Industrial park, comprising six quarter-sections north of Broadway Avenue and west of existing plant sites, would create a zone of up to 720 acres for new industrial use.
Council voted 9-0 to bring it back later this month after a marathon near four-hour discussion of presentations on the “NW Industrial” area structure plan and public hearing that drew about 100 people to council chambers.
Many were members of the six clubs with facilities on the north end of the city-leased land, and many were not convinced of a planned consultation process, and suggested removing portions out, rezoning or selling the land to them.
“They’re looking for a signal tonight, ‘hey what are we gonna do?” said Coun. Darren Hirsch, who suggested a tabling motion. “There’s a litany of potential questions and solutions to think about.”
The Medicine Hat Speedway, Dragstrip, MotoCross Society, the Rifle and Revolver Club, Th RC vehicle racers, have argued in opposition since the plan was publicly proposed last fall, saying it put their facilities at risk.
Officials from the Rifle and Revolver Club said their facility and others require stability to continue operating and to grow.
“There are a number of benefits to keeping the clubs in their current locations, including economic, and those have been overlooked,” said Victoria Kriszan, the club’s president.
Other speakers said it was unfortunate the decision is posed as a question of economic development.
Aaron Steinkey, a drag strip supporter, said he feared the plan would move fast, and the potential for a rail line through the top parcels, but Mayor Linnsie Clark asked why a plan with protections was worse than no plan.
“If it is put forward, it’s worse because there’s a plan, and when I look on the plan, I see a rail line that will go right through us,” said he said. “I think the whole area should be developed, but leave us where we’re at.”
That idea was introduced earlier by Coun. Shila Sharps, wondering about protocol to engage the clubs with three-quarters of the southern four quarter-sections was contracted.
“If this is 25 years out, is there not a way we could not approve Phases 1, 2, 3 and leave Phase 4 (including club facilities) out of it?” asked Coun. Sharps.
Consultant Marcus Paterson said it mitigates long-term risks to companies buying initial phases to know future plans for surrounding land, and would eventually reduce costs to infrastructure for the entire area.
“Is there anything in the middle ground here that would give them more certainty,” said Coun. Andy McGrogan, and was told that could occur, if council wished, at future stages.
The developer, Invest Medicine Hat, plans to require development to move south to north (toward the clubs) and engage clubs through a “policy review overlay,” which “acknowledges and protects the interests of the club.”
“Relocation can’t happen overnight, but the PRO provides short- and medium-term assurance to the clubs,” contract consultant Marcus Paterson told council.
“A substantial amount of land would have to move in a very short time for that to be accelerated.”
He also argued that no development could take place, especially for a rail line without substantial consultation.
“Council will have to weigh (the) opportunity against the current use; but I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive,” said Coun. Robert Dumanowski.
Planning manager Robert Sissons told council the land is ideal, near to the city, transportation corridors, electric and gas infrastructure, and is in one block, suitable for large industrial projects.
It was annexed by the city in the late 1980s, but became a focus of advanced planning of the land development office after 2019.