Who has a right to use this property?
This property is not owned by the City of Chestermere, but by a private investment group who purchased the land in 2012. The public has as much right to use this property as it has to use any other private property, including your home.
What can this land be used for right now?
This land is zoned as SPR – Special Recreation District. This doesn’t mean, though, that it’s supposed to be used for public recreation. In fact, when you eliminate the potential uses that aren’t possible (because of the lack of lake front or size for a golf course) or realistic (because it would mean donating all of the land to the community), the only possible uses for this property are a campground, a clubhouse, outdoor boat parking, places of worship, or private clubs.
If the community wants to use this as a park space for children, then the community would need to purchase the land from the owners.
We believe there’s a better use for the property.
What is a Retirement Living Campus?
If the proposed bylaws are passed, Chestermere will be the only community we know that has a dedicated “District” in its Land Use Bylaw for those who are over the age of 55.
While the District is broad in definition in order to allow it to be used elsewhere in the future (perhaps even as a model for other municipalities), there is very little chance that this particular property will be used for anything but independent living. The vast majority of Chestermere residents that have partaken in seniors’ housing and services surveys have indicated that they are looking for independent living today – not facility living.
People living here will be very independent and will only live here because they choose to purchase a home here. In our experience, many will still be working or just starting their retirement and a looking for a “lock and leave” home so that they don’t have to mow the lawns or shovel snow, don’t have to use stairs to go to bed, and can easily head south in the winter (once COVID is done).
We hope to see an apartment constructed on the west side of the property in order to provide some amenity space to all of the owners on the campus, such as card rooms and exercise room, as well as to provide more options for those who are looking for smaller, less expensive homes. Ultimately, the market will dictate what is built.
What will stop this from changing into other forms of housing?
Some residents who have lived in Chestermere for some time will recall other developments that were planned for the 55+ population but opened to the whole population once they were approved.
This is different. The landowners have agreed to restrict the property through the Land Use Bylaw (“zoning”) to communities built for those who are 55+. A bareland condominium corporation (a “bareland” condo is a structure for ownership and does not in any way suggest that this will be apartment style construction) on top of the zoning will ensure that only those who are at least 55 (or married to someone who is 55+) will be able to live here.
The only way to open this to the general public is to go through the whole process of rezoning the land again.
And yes, it is still legal in Alberta to restrict occupancy on the basis of age as long as that age is 55.
Isn’t this the wrong location for something like this?
The owners of this land are the only ones, so far, who are prepared to specifically dedicate their property for this use through zoning. Another, smaller site has plans for a seniors congregate living facility, but this has not been built yet. The hotel in Chestermere is in the process of being converted to seniors’ housing. As indicated above, though, people are looking for independent living at this time.
Perhaps, one day, a congregate living facility will be built in Chestermere for those who have greater health needs. And hopefully, that site will be located within walking distance to everything that its residents want and need. This is not that site.
This development won’t meet the needs of everyone. But it will meet the needs of some, and we believe that’s a much needed start for this community.