Chestermere’s Town Council has approved the master area structure plan for the 2,400 acre Waterbridge Development in West Chestermere.

“After extensive review and hard work by all involved, we’re excited to see the plan for Chestermere’s West side take place,” said Chestermere Mayor Patricia Matthews. “We expect future plans, including the large commercial area in phase one, will be reflective of Chestermere’s unique character and anticipate we will be seeing those plans quickly.”

Now that the master area structure plan is approved, the next step for the developers will be to create area structure plans to provide more detailed views of specific sections of the development. Once the area structure plan is approved, the developers will need to create more detailed outline plans and subdivision plans before construction can start.

“Going forward, Town staff will work with the developers to ensure that applications brought forward are consistent with our Municipal Development Plan and Land Use Bylaw, provide opportunities for stakeholder engagement, and meet the regulatory guidelines to ensure Chestermere’s best interests are at heart as the development progresses,” said Heather Kauer, the Town’s Senior Planner.

The Waterbridge Development could attract more than 46,000 new residents and will expand from Rainbow Road in Chestermere to Calgary’s city limit, and from the Trans- Canada Highway to Township Road 240.

“Waterbridge will allow Chestermere to continue to develop key services and amenities for our residents,” said Matthews.

The population of Chestermere was just over 1,000 people in 1993, in 2012 there were about 16,000 people and with the Waterbridge Development the population is expected to quadruple.

“The Town of Chestermere annexed the Waterbridge land in 2009. They annexed the land because it allowed them to control growth adjacent to them, rather than if Calgary annexed it, they would have had no control over how these lands would develop,” said Pam MacInnis, associate with Brown & Associates Planning Group.

According to the master area structure plan, Waterbridge will have four communities; Business Park/North spanning 500 acres with a projected population of 7,977, North Central will occupy 761 acres with a projected population of 14,898, South Central will take up 480 acres with a projected population of 13,109 and South will span across 480 acres and will have a projected population of 10,349.

“Waterbridge will be primarily residential development but it will include a regional town centre, two village centres to serve the local communities, and various neighbourhood nodes to serve as gathering places and provide a social focus for neighbourhoods,” said MacInnis.

The Town Centre will offer a unique shopping and entertainment aspect for residents, and will serve as a multi-functional shopping, living and employment focus for Waterbridge.

“Waterbridge will integrate the natural topography with the management of stormwater to create a waterscaped theme throughout Waterbridge. This vision builds upon Chestermere’s recreation vision as the ‘Recreation and relaxation oasis of Alberta’,” said MacInnis.

The master area structure plan includes an EcoPark, which will feature interpretive boards that can be used for information and educational opportunities, low impact pathways and trails and a gazebo for an outdoor classroom. The goal is to take advantage of the unique recreational benefits provided by the overland stormwater management system, which will promote walking and cycling along with kayaking, canoeing and skating throughout the interconnected system.

Matthews explained that conservation is so important because, “Wetlands are disappearing at a rapid rate in Southern Alberta, mostly due to development. If we’re planning for the future of our children we have to ensure we maintain the environment for them as well. Wetlands play a big part in how our community will be shaped in the future.”

Not only is conserving the wetlands a major priority for any future developments in Chestermere, but so is defining the community of Chestermere.

“We continue to define what our community will look and feel like in the future through developments such as these, although Waterbridge is the largest development that we will see within our current boundaries,” said Matthews.

“So far the overall response has been a positive one,” said Matthews regarding the public response to Waterbridge. “Chestermere residents are very engaged and many came out to the open house and public hearing held for this development.”

One Chestermere resident, James Foster, has a mixed opinion on the Waterbridge Development. “On one hand, I worry that Chestermere will simply become an extension of Calgary, and will lose its small town feel,” said Foster. “That small town feel is what attracted many of us, to the community in the first place.”

The positive aspect Foster feels will come from the Waterbridge Development is more infrastructure for Chestermere, which is what he thinks the town is lacking now.

“I worry about infrastructure issues. When you’re talking about an additional 40,000 residents, that impacts everything from seats in schools, added pressure on recreation facilities and it can cause significant traffic issues,” said Foster.

In terms of the traffic issues, Foster thinks both the Trans Canada and 1A Highways will have to be expanded to accommodate the additional traffic flow.

Other issues Foster thinks will arise are the need for a fully operational RCMP dispatch, added fire and EMS support and public transportation.

“What does this new growth mean with regards to fair and equal access to the 4.5 km long lake? With under 20,000 residents currently, the lake is already feeling the crunch on some warm sunny days,” said Foster.

“On the positive side, hopefully as infrastructure is built up, Chestermerians will rely less on Calgary for amenities,” said Foster. “Lastly, I just hope that the town council has truly identified a viable and sustainable plan when it comes to this expansion. It’s crucial that this be executed the right way, not simply the easiest or most cost effective way.”

Construction of the Waterbridge Development could start as early as 2015.