Lack of land a focus in Mayor's State of the Region address

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Lack of land a focus in Mayor's State of the Region address

The future of Wood Buffalo is a shining beacon of opportunity, prosperity, and sustainability in north eastern Alberta.

This from Mayor Melissa Blake during her State of the Region address at today's Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Coupled with the municipality's rapid growth, Blake says the lack of a land bank has always been one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome.

"Last year, I was particularly happy to say that we signed a memorandum of understanding for the UDSR, or Urban Development Sub-Region. This year, I have to stand back and say, though I thought I had it nailed, we're still working on the details," Mayor Blake said. "Land remains critical to us, but what's changed over that period is how we're using what we've already got. When you look at the city centre redevelopment, we're creating more density in the same space that exists, then you don't have to worry about someone giving you the land, you can deal with the private sector." 

Mayor Blake adds the municipality is working to make some of the land it does have more available, through its efforts to become a zero-waste region.

"We should be able to free up a whole bunch of space that would have been used to bury our waste, which we're hoping will no become resources in an Eco-park that's complimentary to the kinds of things we take out of the recycling industry," said Blake. "So we think there's just huge opportunity to take the only land we do have and make it more valuable." 

However, Blake says, land is just one in a series of connected issues Wood Buffalo is facing, adding one of the biggest challenges the Municipality is facing, is how fast the population is growing versus how slow infrastructure is to catch up.

 "We knew we were facing growth with the industrial sector, we know when they grow they bring people, and when they come people come, they need things," said Blake. "What took us by surprise initially, was how much more rapidly that  occurred than we thought. Now we're just with the mind that it's going to be faster than we've already experienced. The capability of locking down important elements like land, transportation, and access, that's why we have a billion-dollar budget going before council for consideration."

Without enough land to properly support the expanding population, Blake says the municipality is in danger of becoming a depot town with thousands living in work camps.

And that could be the reality as long as the province continually fails to see the importance of land in this region.
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