The City is walking a fine line regarding the $750,000 investment they made into a potential big Canadian retailer coming to the future Lacombe Market Square.
As it stands, residents of Lacombe and the surrounding area often need to travel to bigger centres for retail shopping. The creation of Lacombe Market Square is therefore intended to create shopping opportunities within the City limits and also create a new commercial tax base – something that was indicated to the current Council in the last municipal election.
The investment of $750,000 to facilitate a single developer, in theory, will kickstart the entire development of the Square — according to City officials — and municipalities often find ways to spur economic growth through a variety of methods, according to Chief Administrative Officer Matthew Goudy.
The issue of this investment isn’t whether new retail are opportunities are good for Lacombe — they are. The issue is the potential for other businesses and developers to seek out similar deals to the one this currently unknown developer is getting.
A precedent has been potentially set where businesses will come and seek similar investments from the City of Lacombe – something that is not ideal considering that citizens will see a $13-14 increase to their monthly municipal taxes until the borrowed $750,000 for this development is paid off.
It is a bind that has two sides — both of which are important.
The City of Lacombe should always seek out ways to encourage commercial growth because in the long term it eases the burden on residential ratepayers. However, as stated by Councillor Cora Hoekstra, Council has the duty under the Municipal Government Act to provide good governance, provide services and have a safe community.
This investment is a gamble — albeit a minor one — that may be outside the realm of those three pillars.
Luckily, from what I have heard from City officials, it seems to be a calculated gamble that will most likely pay off in the long run for ratepayers given that commercial taxation is something that is needed in this community.
In short, this instance was an opportunity the City had little choice but to go forward with for future benefit, but they should consider resisting the temptation to invest in single developers in this way in the future.