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Editorial: County decision sends bad message

After more than a year of work, two public hearings and various trips back to the drawing board, Foothills County has voted down the relocation of High River Toyota to Highway 2A, north of Okotoks.

The decision was based on complaints from surrounding neighbours about potential increased traffic, noise and general dissatisfaction with the notion of a large building being placed at the corner of Highway 2A and 322 Ave. However, there are already two dealerships in close proximity and Toyota wouldn't have been completely out of place in the neighbourhood - especially since the area is slated to be a commercial gateway into Okotoks.

While resident concern is always valid, County council should have taken a closer look at the broad picture before making this decision.

Like Couns. Delilah Miller and Rob Siewert argued, the business would have brought in an industrial-commercial taxpayer to help relieve the burden on the residential tax base. It could have been a great economic opportunity for the County to have Toyota working within its borders, an opportunity that could now be lost as the dealership looks elsewhere.

As Coun. Siewert said after the second public hearing, turning down the application after dragging it out and working with Toyota for months sends a negative message. The word is out now: there is no guarantee when working with Foothills County that the municipality is open for business.

It's not what the County wants - in fact, part of the reasoning behind making the name change from MD of Foothills to County was to make the municipality more recognizable and help attract business. It's also why the County has invested heavily into infrastructure in its industrial corridors.

So why turn down an application from a seemingly conscientious business prepared to pay for infrastructure upgrades, contribute to the community and be mindful of and co-operative with area neighbours?

It's a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease, and the losers this time around are not only Toyota and the County.

They are everyone in the Foothills region who missed out on a major community investment.