School Site Assembly Process
Schools, parks and recreation sites are all necessities – but did you know that assembling these large parcels of land can happen in a few different ways?
Sometimes, municipalities purchase land or receive it through a donation. However, the most common way for a municipality to obtain municipal reserve land – a parcel of land that must be used for a public purpose – is through the land development process, outlined below.
How school sites are planned
The Municipal Government Act allows municipalities to require developers of new neighbourhoods to contribute a portion of each new neighbourhood as municipal reserve land for future parks, recreation areas, school sites or a combination of these purposes.. This portion can be up to 10% of the total area of the neighbourhood. Developers would then be responsible for providing all the infrastructure and services to the land as they develop the neighbourhood around it.
Municipalities specify where the reserve land will be within the neighbourhood by developing area structure plans (ASPs) and neighbourhood structure plans (NSPs), which specify how the land will be used and serviced in city neighbourhoods. School sites are identified when ASPs and NSPs are created. School boards provide information about their future needs to the municipality to inform these plans.
Reserve land is a limited resource, and sometimes the needs and timelines of a community and its school boards change between when a neighbourhood is planned and when the development is completed.
Rapid growth impacts land availability
Beaumont has seen rapid growth recently. Between 2016 and 2021, the population grew by almost 3,500 people – a 20% increase (source: Canadian federal census data). This means the demand for school sites has become more urgent than the planning and development process for new neighborhoods – and therefore new municipal reserve land parcels – can accommodate.
It can also be difficult to balance the needs of three different school boards in Beaumont, all of which need space for facilities to accommodate new students in our thriving community.
Current school site availability
The STAR Catholic and Black Gold school divisions have both identified needs for high school space in Beaumont. In Spring 2023, the City of Beaumont confirmed the availability of a joint school site on approximately 30 acres of municipal-owned land immediately south of the West Recreation Site on Township Road 505.
City staff identified the location after considering multiple options, including land purchases, looking at land that the City already owns, and discussing with developers how to shift timelines or priorities in upcoming neighbourhoods to obtain a site large enough to accommodate one or more high schools to help meet school boards’ needs.
As the land is owned by the City and will be serviced outside the development process, it will take time to get a site ready for construction of a school. The process of servicing land requires land studies and planning to ensure that the area is designed properly and follows all applicable regulations. It also requires the construction of sewer, water and power connections, roads, sidewalks, and other infrastructure before any school site construction projects can begin.
The City anticipates that servicing can be completed by spring of 2025. Pending funding approval from the Government of Alberta, design work could take place concurrently to allow school construction to begin then.