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Letter: How to Grow a Town – One Decision at a Time

A lot of people in Hinton are upset with a Town Council decision that I supported to zone some land including part of our golf course as commercial and residential.

A lot of people in Hinton are upset with a Town Council decision that I supported to zone some land including part of our golf course as commercial and residential. I understand why people are puzzled and I want to explain that I do think having a community golf course in Town is important and why I supported this decision focusing on the commercial aspects of the zoning.

I am in favour of growing our town and its economy. We need jobs and we need a healthy tax base so we can keep tax rates down. And I voted the way I did because I believe that the land along Highway 16, where millions of cars travel each year, should be zoned for its highest and most productive use given its location. A big development along the highway, if done right, will attract prosperous businesses, create new jobs and bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in new taxes for everything from sewers and policing to, yes, sports.

Indeed, please remember that one of our current amenities is a community golf course and that the golf course in Hinton is taxpayer supported unlike most others in Alberta. Taxpayers hold the following significant liabilities: about $1,000,000 remaining on the ATB golf course loan on which taxpayers are obliged to pay $156,000 per year till 2032; about $51,000 remaining on the golf course operating loan, which the town holds until the golf society pays it off; and a $468,460 liability remaining on the golf carts on which the Town is the guarantor though the society makes the payments. If we want these kinds of things, we have to be able to pay for them.

So, will any such developments along Highway 16 near the golf course affect the course in some way? Yes, of course. The town can, and should, mitigate these impacts in the short run with sensitivity to the needs of golf in this town by negotiating suitable arrangements in any sales agreements and future development agreements with commercial partners. And for the long run we can set aside money both from the sale of land and from a portion of the expected property tax revenues towards a capital fund to enhance the course’s playability and financial viability. In fact there are some significant capital improvements needed on this course now.

In coming up with these ideas and in deciding how to vote I have talked to many citizens of Hinton directly in the recent past and I heard from those who were at recent council meetings and public hearings. Some were in favour of the zoning changes and others definitely weren’t. Both were passionate about keeping a community golf course but also about their very different ideas on how to keep one. I know my vote didn’t satisfy opponents of the change but I think it’s best for Hinton including our golf course.

I believe my decision speaks to the best long-term interests of the community. But I always want to be clear, open and honest, about where I stand, even when we disagree.

Stuart Taylor, Member of Hinton Town Council

PS: The ideas in this letter reflect only those of the author.

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