“There are some questions that we would like to get feedback on from the residents of Taber, as part of our high-level policy strategy,” said Cory Armfelt, contract director of planning. “What it comes down to at the end of the day is an investment of council dollars for development issues, and the look and feel of the community — where does the money get invested, and what does Taber ultimately look like? The survey is giving us tips on those two items, of how to create that in a draft plan, when we go to write the actual draft plan.”
Town of Taber administration has been working with a steering committee of local residents to identify challenges and opportunities the town faces over the next 20 years. Major items of focus include the industrial area, the downtown, unsightly premises, and economic development. The survey’s purpose is to solicit feedback on a number of key points raised during meetings with the steering committee.
“We are looking for information on the vision statement, what are the good things and the not so good things about life in Taber,” said Armfelt. “We’re looking at residential density — Taber has quite a low residential density, and so how is that handled, is that continued? When things aren’t very dense, you get what we call sprawl.
Sprawl ultimately is much more expensive at the end of the day than a community that has everybody packed into a tighter footprint — there’s expenses with mowing lawns, repairing lots of pipes, and fixing lots of roads.”
Armfelt noted lot splitting and infill developments have become increasingly popular on large lots located on Taber’s south side.
“Is their an appetite to intensify things a little bit more? With lot splits, which were seeing right now especially on the south side, people will buy one lot with a house oriented on either the right or left hand side of it, there’s an opportunity for someone to build another house there, because the original lots are really wide. Some of them are 80’ to 100’ wide. A typical lot is half of that now. So we’re inquiring about stuff like that.”
With the downtown area experiencing challenges related to building vacancies, unsightly premises, and a lack of vision for the future, Armfelt pointed out there are options for the town to consider when planning for the future of the retail district.
“The downtown is obviously a big one, with the appearance of it, and revitalization. And we’re trying to gauge how far should the town go. There’s been a lot of studies and a lot of work done identifying the problems, but not much on the implementation side. So the questions around the downtown, what we’re trying to do is orient them to the implementation side — these are the issues that we see, these are the issues that these other studies have brought forward, what can we do to resolve some of these things, and what is actually implementable.”
One strategy that could be considered for Taber’s downtown area could involve restricting future retail commercial development to that specific area, among other options.
“With land-use, on the actual use side itself, there’s an area that’s designated as comprehensive commercial around the Wal-Mart area,” said Armfelt. “Businesses that locate around that Wal-Mart are taking opportunities for revitalization away from the downtown. Is that OK with people? Is that not OK? There’s a planning tool there that we could use that says any new commercial business, if you’re a retail commercial type of business, you must locate in the downtown core. Is that something that people have the appetite for or not?”
The survey can be found and completed on online on the Town of Taber’s website, or hard copies can be acquired at the Town of Taber office.
“We’re going to put hard copy surveys, with a poster and some instructions, in the library and at the pool,” said Armfelt.
The deadline for completion and return of the survey by town residents is September 2013. A chance to win a $500 shopping spree in town is being offered for those who attach their names to a completed survey.
“This is a way to help administration formulate that draft plan, so when we actually get down to the writing of that draft plan, what we write is as close as we can get to what people are going to be looking for. So if the community is going to be looking for a kind of made-in-Taber type of plan, that has a lot of Taber voices to it, they should get out and do the survey,” said Armfelt.