Lac La Biche County Council officially endorsed the Government of Alberta’s Memorandum of Understanding on Thursday, signing over the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range to the provincial government in exchange for 16 townships north of the AWR and top-up funding.
The final deal will see the range become an improvement district, with Lac La Biche County receiving $15-million in assessment over five years to help cover the $17 million in AWR tax assessments Lac La Biche County received annually. The rest of the funding gap will be covered by “top-up funding” from the province, which has committed to providing Lac La Biche County with $14 million towards capital projects, including the BNR Wastewater Treatment Facility.
Council met earlier in the week to work on revisions to the original MOU. Initially, Lac La Biche County was meant to receive 20 townships located north of the AWR – however, four of those townships were set aside because of the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan’s designation of those areas as caribou habitat.
According to a news release, an amendment was made to “request that the land be designated to Lac La Biche County should the Province decide to release the land for development purposes by 2016.”
“That’s the biggest request we made,” said Mayor Peter Kirylchuk, adding that council agreed with the rest of MOU as it was outlined.
“I will go to the wall with this deal. It’s something that’s in place and secure for the future.”
Although the new townships only generate around $5 million in current tax assessments, Kirylchuk said he is confident that growth in those regions will quickly match AWR numbers.
“In five years, that region will surpass the Air Weapons Range,” Kirylchuk said.
The agreement also gives our county a split mill rate, meaning that taxes on industrial development can be adjusted without affecting businesses.
“We are absolutely very pleased with this deal,” he added. “I think it has secured a land-base and the ability of the county to tax commercial businesses at a different rate than industrial linear enterprises.”
Kirylchuk said he is confident that the new split mill-rate will encourage new growth to our region.
“We pushed for that big time,” he said. “It will attract more businesses, not only to Lac La Biche, but also for Plamondon. For us it’s a huge concession given to Lac La Biche County.”