February 29, 2024

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Lake resort lifestyle: Chestermere focuses on growth, sustainability

“Chestermere is really becoming a community of choice for many people,” says Doug Whitney, of Douglas Developments.

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Lakeside living has always been a beacon for fans of a more relaxed and connected lifestyle. That slower pace of life is one of the reasons that the city of Chestermere is experiencing rapid growth, attracting all demographics from far and wide, including those from international locales.

Doug Whitney, vice-president of sales at Douglas Developments, the developer behind Chestermere’s Waterford community, calls it “valuegraphics.”

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“Chestermere is really becoming a community of choice for many people. I like to look at it from the perspective of value demographics, rather than age or income or origin. Chestermere is attracting people who value the outdoors, who are looking for a place to walk the dog, for the fresh air, the small town feel with big city amenities; they are looking for a community that is giving them more space and more home for their money,” he says.

Chestermere, which sits at a population of about 24,000, is poised for exponential growth.

Mayor Jeff Colvin says that the growth is spurred on by the attractive lifestyle, one that revolves around the lake and the outdoors.

“Out here in Chestermere, we are really wanting to get back to some of the basics. The lake is beautiful — you can sail, kite sail, waterski, wake board, fish and swim. In the winter, you’ve got quads and snowmobiles and you are towing kids and there are ice rinks — it’s like it was when we were young,” he says.

When it comes to lifestyle, council’s modus operandi is to support the resort lifestyle.

“It’s really all about the flexibility of what life brings and how to enjoy it. We’re really trying to unlock the ability to have fun,” says Colvin.

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Allowing alcohol in the parks, legalizing off-road vehicles on the roads, adding three new dog parks — one is 2.5 hectares (six acres) large and 2,000 metres long — and building four new sport courts that house a combination of tennis, basketball and pickleball courts. The dog parks and basketball courts are a partnership with TransAlta and utilize large tracts of vacant land under utility lines, an initiative spearheaded by Colvin.

“We did make it very clear that with some of the initiatives, like alcohol in the parks, that if there were any shenanigans we would pull it. But so far, we haven’t had one problem. With responsible citizens comes a lot of freedom,” he says.

Safety under Colvin’s leadership is also a top priority — council has hired four new RCMP officers, bringing the total to 22, while also adding six new firefighters to the roster (this is the first time new hiring has occurred in 10 years). In addition, it has also hired a bevy of peace officers and is in the process of providing adventure motorcycles for the force, so that the officers can go anywhere , through parks and pathways, uphill and downhill.

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“You name it, these bikes can do it. With our little oasis we are pretty lucky that we’ve had very low crime rates, but we don’t take it for granted. The point is to really focus on the protection of our citizens,” says Colvin.

Since Colvin took office in the fall of 2021, he has focused on getting the word out that the town is open for business, as well as taking measures to make life even more liveable.

He’s entrepreneurial in his vision and says he runs the city as he would a business, with the bottom line and sustainability as guiding principles.

He has simplified the land development process, putting road-building, storm water management and infrastructure into the hands of the developers, rather than the city.

“As a result, we’ve managed to save huge money and we were able to redesign our roads and storm water requirements, which ended up saving just over $10 million. Plus, it allowed more creativity in design — it’s pretty incredible what happens when everyone works together,” he says.

“Developers are also investors in our city. A lot of times councillors forget that. It’s our job as council to shape that and to help them succeed to get the job done.”

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Certainly, developers are taking note. Douglas Developments’ Whitney says that Chestermere is working hard to be friendly and doing a great job of it.

“Council is very pro-growth, pro-industry, pro-sustainability. It’s a very comfortable place to do business,” he says

Waterford hit the ground running in 2019 and phases 3 and 4 are now under development. A new show home parade should launch soon with builder group including Douglas Homes, Dream Built Homes, Prominent Homes, Green Cedar Homes, Devine Custom Homes and Artistique Homes. New lands adjacent to the community are being scouted for development and inclusion into the masterplan. The commercial space is complete, as are parks, ponds and walking paths.

Both Qualico Communities’ Dawson’s Landing and Anthem’s Chelsea are in mid-swing. Dawson’s Landing just released lots in Phase 4, which will include a new product line: front garage duplexes, as well as laned duplexes, single-family laned homes and front drive homes. A new playground and pathway areas around the innovative Stormwater Kidney have also just opened. The suite of builders includes NuVista Homes, Truman Homes, Sterling Homes, Broadview Homes, Morrison Homes and Trico Homes.

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Chelsea, a 128-hectare (316-acre) community, is mid-way through development (a feat it has achieved in just over three years). Pioneer Trail, an interactive linear park space and linear pathway, is almost complete. Laned show homes opened in 2022 and triple-car garage front drive show homes are opening throughout 2023.

But perhaps Chestermere’s biggest development story is Clearwater Park by Centron, a new development on the city’s east side that will span more than 235 hectares (580 acres) and at its heart will be an amenity clubhouse as well as a real 36-metre tall lighthouse. The community will offer ownership and leasing residential opportunities, a seniors’ village, a commercial component with 20,000 square feet of restaurant and office space, as well as an industrial and warehousing component. The community is slated to launch in the fall of 2023.

Forecasting even more growth, the city has recently put in a bid to annex another almost 12,000 hectares (29,000 acres) on its east side, adding land from just north of the Trans-Canada Highway and stretching south to Glenmore Trail (Highway 560). The new lands incorporate a 285-hectare (700-acre) lake — currently coined Chestermere 2. The lake will be a second amenity water feature for Chestermere, as well as an abundant source of raw water and irrigation water, and most importantly, provide a huge hub for storm water.

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