By COLLIN GALLANT on September 29, 2022.
The Medicine Hat Arena may soon have land classification, but there is relatively little new information about a sale of the decommissioned rink in the North Flats for a housing development.
On Wednesday, the city applied to the municipal planning commission to rezone the property, which was conditionally sold three years ago and tagged for future condominium development.
“The Alto” condo project, by local firm NewRock Developments, was promoted at the 2020 State of the City address, but deadlines in it were suspended that summer by both sides when uncertainty of the early pandemic set in.
Now the deadlines in the original tax-abatement agreement have also passed, and would require updating.
Officials with NewRock Developments were not available Wednesday.
Council could consider that under new, even broader tax-incentive authority recently added from the province, but first it will hear about a new application from city administrators to rezone the five-acre site.
MPC vice chair Coun. Andy McGrogan said council has not yet been briefed on the status of the sale, but the rezoning process moves along the eventual redevelopment, which is a council priority.
“We’re not approving whichever building goes on the site, but that (a new) building could go on the site,” he told the commission, which voted 5-0 to send the zoning change to council for approval following a public hearing.
Community service districts are typical for city facilities and churches, but restrict commercial operations and residential construction.
The proposed application would change the site to the relatively new classification of high-density mixed-use zoning.
That class was added to the land-use bylaw last spring as planners said it needed a route to approve projects with more units on less land in central areas of the city.
“It is considered the highest and best use for the site … and a major infill development in a key location,” said city planning officer Brad Irwin, stating next steps would be to apply for a demolition permit, then subdivide the site.
That would likely hive off a portion of existing parking for the neighbouring YMCA location, before planners consider a new building.
However, it’s unclear whether the city’s Invest Medicine Hat office would be the future applicant or if a potential buyer would step up.
The Arena was first subject of a conditional sales agreement between the city and NewRock in 2019. That deal would see the site transferred to the developer at no cost, and the city would province $1.5 million in work to upgrade utility servicing and roadway access.
In exchange, NewRock would become responsible for demolition costs, estimated to be $3 million, but also benefit from a graduated $400,000 break on municipal taxes if it met certain deadlines.
That included a requirement to apply for a demolition permit in mid-2020, though both sides said the sale was suspended during the economic uncertainty in the first year of the pandemic.
The general site is considered to be flood proofed after berm construction to the north and the installation of a removable flood gate along the River Road access.
Additional flood-mitigation measures would likely be required when the development application and building permits are examined, say planning staff.
A public hearing on the zoning matter could be heard at a council meeting in November.