Kneehill County will suspend plans it had for developments at Horseshoe Canyon while it waits to see what a private developer has in store. The decision was made at the Sept. 8 regular meeting of council.
Manager of Parks and Agricultural services Bowen Clausen presented councillors with an update on the county’s plan to develop pay parking and washrooms at the popular Horseshoe canyon tourist site.
“Council approved the development of a day use facility for $1.35 million and pay parking for $25,000 within the 2020 budget,” stated Clausen in his report.
“At the June 23 meeting council requested options be brought back for further discussion,” who also noted a recent road closure intended to aid the project was sent to the provincial government.
Coun. Glen Keiver asked staff how long the road closure process takes and Clausen confirmed it can take up to a year.
It also appears a private business could become part of the deal.
“On Sept. 1, administration received a letter of intent from private industry, alerting the county of development interest at the canyon,” stated Clausen.
“The letter indicated their intent to apply to develop a building that would contain some of the following: washrooms, commercial kitchens, lounge area, and retail space. The proposed building would be more than double that of the options administration has proposed.
“This information confirms that county’s belief in the site’s potential. In light of this information administration is recommending that the county suspend its current projects.
Once the extent of private works are known, the county can work with industry and the focus group to identify any other potential gaps of partnerships that the county could explore.
“This development if approved would alter the potential revenue and expenses, though these implications are unknown at this time and are hard to estimate.
However, inferences can be made regarding these impacts; pay parking, these could be significant in reducing any or all projected revenue if free parking is offered at a location nearby that also offers the numerous proposed amenities and offerings.
Further while competition is good for a free market and can promote both, it would be critical to work together with private industry to ensure target markets and offerings were very different in regards to making any revenue from a retail or café space.”
Reeve Jerry Whittstock stated it was nice to see a private business taking interest as there is a lot of potential at the canyon, and also noted the county doesn’t want to compete against private business.
Coun. Ken King was also happy to see private business step forward and stated Clausen’s suggestion to suspend the county project until more is known about the private development is the proper decision.
“We have to wait for the road closure anyway,” said King.
Clausen noted that a Horseshoe Canyon focus group will move forward and the consultant contract has been awarded. The focus group will help identify which services are needed at the canyon and which ones the private developer may address.
Coun. Debbie Penner stated the canyon seemed very busy this summer and she also agreed the county project should be postponed, but not cancelled.
Councillors discussed how long the focus group would need to complete its work. Clausen estimated the group could start in October and possibly wrap up in February.
Councillors approved a motion to suspend Kneehill County’s Horseshoe Canyon plans and get more information about what the private developer has in mind.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter