Councillors voted unanimously on Jan. 20 for administration to develop the terms of reference and work with planning consultants QuantumPlace Developments regarding two recently-annexed quarter sections on the east boundaries of town, known as the Thorarinson lands.
This will lay the beginning framework for development over years to come for a swath of land nearly the size as Black Diamond.
“The fact that Mr. Thorarinson has started this process now is very encouraging,” Black Diamond Mayor Ruth Goodwin said.
“Because that's where we were looking for Black Diamond to grow, to the east and south.”
Goodwin expects the development will be gradual and in phases, over years to come.
“This allows us to control the growth, working with the developer and the owner, with the understanding of how much it will cost moving forward and how much theTown can afford, year by year,” she said.
“And I think it's really important to be able to control that growth, and everybody wants success, and that's really important.”
Jessica Karpat, QuantumPlace Developments principal planner, echoed the desire for careful and thought out development in a phone interview.
“What we'd like to do is develop a terms of reference that's clear as to the objectives for a conceptual scheme, and what council would like to see out of the development of the area,” Karpat said.
She addressed concerns from council about new development abutting existing residential areas, saying they would be “like to like,” and as per the Town’s Municipal Development Plan, business and industrial development would be separate from residential and near the highway.
Working with Town planners to create terms of reference will just be the beginning of a slow process.
“What we'd like to do is focus on a step by step process, make sure we're being collaborative,” Karpat said.
“To come up with a plan that works for Black Diamond and stakeholders in a very thoughtful and deliberate way.”
Town planning manager Rod Ross shared the enthusiasm and desire for a considerate approach.
“Future growth for the community is exciting,” Ross said. “It's something that has to be done with a great deal of care and consideration.
“There will be public consultation, there will be stakeholder consultation, but planning for the future growth of a community like Black Diamond is exciting for sure.”
The draw of small-town living is a main driver for the development, Karpat said.
“The appeal of small towns is a big one, getting out of populated areas.
“Finding an area where the values that come with living in a small town, knowing your neighbours, being part of a community… is something that people are looking for. These are all things that people really like about small towns and towns like Black Diamond.”
The increased demand for small town living was one Goodwin saw even before COVID-19 changed the focus away from condensed downtown centres. She saw Calgary’s ring road as a potential driver for growth in the region as well.
“That was part and parcel of the consideration of the annexation, and why we chose to move ahead,” Goodwin said.
“Knowing that people would like to live in smaller communities, identifying that values have changed, especially with young families, young entrepreneurs, self-employed people.”