Growth, pathways and beautification will play a large role in this year’s vision to further develop Black Diamond.
During a one-day retreat in the community of more than 2,000, council members put their heads together and agreed to spend the next several months focusing on developing a growth plan, improving the town’s pathways and further revitalizing and beautifying the downtown core.
“Now that we established a goal for this year we have to put some actions behind it,” said Black Diamond Mayor Sharlene Brown. “The next step is to develop strategies along how we can do this.”
Brown said council with work with administration, merchants and residents to develop strategies and timelines for the three goals.
Council’s decision to prioritize growth follows the Towns of Black Diamond and Turner Valley’s agreement to work together to develop a municipal growth study and joint Municipal Development Plan that will guide expansion in both communities. The process is expected to take about two years.
“We are in a rush to get things going and get things started as well as looking at our residential development,” said Brown. “We do not want to be behind the eight ball. There are two sections in town for new development and of course redevelopment in the old section of town.”
Brown said council will work with administration and the community to determine what it wants the town to look like in the future.
“Do we need to have conversations around annexation, do we need to have conversations around working in partnership with other communities?” she said. “You need to have tax diversity – commercial and industrial as well as residential – to help offset residential property taxes.”
Brown said council’s other priorities - multi-use pathways and downtown beautification - have been outstanding issues in the community for a number of years.
“We’ve been working on this pathway project for a very long period of time,” she said. “It’s at least 10 years old. We do little bits of it as we can afford to do it or as new developments come on board.”
With some development areas having since changed and portions of pathways alongside the Sheep River washed away in the 2013 flood, Brown said it’s time for a revised plan.
“We have a plan done, but our development and our areas have changed so we need to change that plan to what we look like now,” she said. “We also have pathways that have not been complete and we want to have some connectivity throughout town.”
Brown said one of the most widely used pathways is the Friendship Trail connecting Black Diamond and Turner Valley.
“Having connectivity to the Friendship Trail and through town is really important,” she said.
“If you want to keep a healthy, viable community you want to have the resources to create those healthy, vibrant communities and pathways is one of those. Everybody can use them, whether you are walking your dog or pushing a stroller. It’s great to have a more walk-able community.”
The final priority, downtown revitalization and beautification, is something the Town has been working on for years, but Brown said it’s time for an update.
“It’s been at least 10 years since we implemented the Historic Main Street Project,” she said.
The project requires downtown businesses to adhere to specific design restrictions and council passed a motion last fall to apply those 1920s and 1930s boomtown historic design standards to new commercial, industrial and institutional development along provincial highways in town.
Brown said it’s time to spruce up the downtown core, whether it’s a fresh coat of paint or maintaining spaces between businesses.
“We want to help businesses make the downtown core a little more attractive,” she said. “Part of the goal is we want to put some time and effort and dollars into downtown beautification inclusive of the pocket gardens. You need a viable-looking downtown to attract businesses.”
Brown said last week’s retreat is the second in two years, and she is eager to move ahead with council’s priorities for 2015.
“I think council is very content to have the conversations and to establish the goal and tangible deadlines in the next year to be able to work on these things,” she said. “It was a great conversation and lots of opinions. The diversity and the opinions created some tangible goals that we can focus on.”