To be a community that attracts new investment, companies and helps the existing ones thrive, High River must have improved communication with its businesses, residents and working partners, such as Foothills County, neighbouring towns and the provincial government.
Jeff has recently met with several business owners who are frustrated with the current operations. Jeff proposes reducing red tape in order to promote development; five months for a small business to receive approval for a patio during covid, only to be declined with no alternative solutions suggested, should be considered a failure.
In person meetings should be encouraged (not applicable during covid restrictions) in order to avoid miscommunication, encourage robust discussion and collectively result in innovative solutions.
High River is lagging behind Foothills County when it comes to development, the disparity between the town and the surrounding county is obvious. Developers have cited difficulties while working with the town, finding progress nearly impossible. This has to change.
Jeff has met with investors and owners who have, or are attempting to have, a development approved in town and has found the same reoccurring theme. The chief complaint being that the town was difficult to deal with, leading some to claim they would avoid developing here in the future.
How does this affect you as a home owner? Without the added income from business taxes, the financial burden of higher taxes is then levied onto residents, while annexed land remains undeveloped.
Recently, Jeff spoke with a developer, who saw his project recently declined by the town council. The developer had just completed a similar project elsewhere, and prior to the completion of that project, his raw land taxes were $800 per year. After completion of the project, his taxes were over $85,000 per year. The taxes from these types of development would fund many of our town projects, programs, renovations and other community services.
We cannot afford to turn away growth.
In comparison, Foothills County uses Area Structure Plans (ASP), the cost of which are repaid by levies charged to all developers.
Adversely, High River asks one small developer to pay in advance for area structure plans encompassing large areas that are not impacted or directly involved with their project. They require these developers to plan roads and other possible development may be in the area. If the council or town doesn’t approve, the developer must adjust and resubmit his application, at cost to the developer.
Jeff believes in the theory, “If you build it, they will come”, which has consistently worked with his business endeavours.
The current Mayor disagrees with this perspective and approach.