Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

UDSR, What is it Good For?

On occasion blog post titles occur to me out of the blue, for no particular rhyme or reason. One of my favourite songs of all time is this one:

What does it have to do with this post? Well, honestly very little, except that the UDSR - or Urban Development Sub-Region, for which the acronym stands, is the very opposite of being good for absolutely nothing. It is, in fact, exceptionally good news for all of us in Fort McMurray, because it addresses an issue that has stifled us for some time: lack of available land on which to grow.

The projections are that this region is going to rapidly grow in population. And while the housing market right now is in a bit of a slump when that growth begins and those properties sell there was, until today, very few options remaining for land development. It isn't just residential properties affected, either, but commercial, too, part of the issue being land tied up with oil leases. Today, on a rather historic day in Fort McMurray, that changed when Minister of Energy Ken Hughes, MLA Don Scott, and Mayor Melissa Blake came together to announce that the development of the UDSR is rolling ahead, moving light years in a single day. Oil leases covering the land within the proposed development area will be cancelled, and the lease holders compensated. This land, now free of encumbrances, will then be available for the RMWB to utilize as we grow. 

Now, some have raised fears about housing prices dropping, but that isn't really what this is about. This isn't about flooding the market with land but rather releasing it in a responsible manner so that growth of our community is not restricted in the manner it has been. And there are still issues to address, like the lack of funding to develop the access roads to Parsons Creek and Saline Creek, neighbourhoods that cannot be functional until those roads exist. And there is ensuring that the land is released in a responsible way, and that it does not prove detrimental to existing home owners - but the beauty is this: Fort McMurray can now grow, and grow in both the commercial and residential sense. The sudden availability of land will have a profound impact on our ability to attract new residents. It will perhaps prove the defining moment in this region as we see another round of massive growth, making us into an urban centre. This may well be one of the most pivotal moments in our history.

Maybe you think I am exaggerating, but all I can say is that ever since I have been writing this blog the issue of lack of land for development has been one I have heard time and time again. I have heard it from almost every person I have ever interviewed about the future of this region, and I have heard their concern about the impact it would have if land was not available for development. The fear that our growth, progress, and future could be stifled was very real, and the more I read the more concerned I became, too. Today, however, I think many breathed a sigh of relief - because the UDSR became a reality, and now we have room to grow.

So, back to that title, and the song. War, what is it good for? Well, as the song says, absolutely nothing - but not so of the Urban Development Sub-Region, which I believe will, in the end, be good for Fort McMurray, this entire region, and all of us. Now go listen to Edwin Starr and The Temptations and have a little dance party, much like our lovely mayor did today when she danced out of joy upon sharing the news that Fort McMurray is on the grow yet again - and finally with the land to make it happen.

You can find more information on
today's announcement and
the Urban Development Sub-Region

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