Bremner-Colchester Comparison Matrix

Comments and Observations By

Responsible Growth for Strathcona County

March 14, 2016

Summary Points:

  • Both areas have capacity to meet growth requirements.
  • Colchester contains NO prime agricultural land – Bremner is 87% prime agricultural land.
  • Colchester community plan directly protects over 700 acres of significant wetlands. Development in either area will see “no net loss of wetland functions” through environmental reserves and mitigation activities.
  • Colchester contains under 3% of county’s moraine land while Bremner contains nearly 10% of the county’s prime agricultural land.
  • Colchester will cost municipal/provincial taxpayers $380.7 million dollars less than Bremner.
  • Colchester’s tax payer costs are largely phased in with growth – Bremner’s tax payer costs are largely front ended before growth can begin.
  • On a per capita basis, Colchester will cost tax payers less than half that of Bremner.  Bremner will require $10,613 per capita of tax payer money, Colchester will require $4,952.


  • Colchester complies with Capital Region Board development policies – Bremner does not.
  • Colchester complies with Strathcona County Agricultural Master Plan – Bremner does not.
  • Colchester complies with Stathcona County Municipal Development Plan – Bremner does not.

Supporting documentation from Bremner/Colchester Comparison Matrix

View the Matrix at:

Bremner/Colchester Comparison Matrix (PDF)

7-3 Introduction

  • Both urban growth areas have the capacity to accommodate the unplanned growth requirement to 2044 of between 15,500 and 33,100.

12-8   Existing Conditions – Wetlands

  • Both areas have wetlands
    • Development within either area must achieve “No Net Loss” of wetland functions in accordance with Strathcona County’s Wetland Conservation Policy, thereby ensuring that the same amount of wetlands remain post development in either area.

13-9 and 14-10 Existing Conditions – Agricultural Soils

  • Colchester has NO prime 1-2 agricultural soils.
  • Bremner has 1794 ha (4431 acres) within the development area, and another 1810 ha (4471 acres) in the undeveloped area (assumed to be held in reserve for future conversion from agricultural use) for an area total of 3604 ha (8901 acres). Under Appendix B, this is shown to represent 9.36% of the prime 1-2 soils in the county.

18-14 Fiscal Impact Analysis – Off Site Infrastructure

  • Fiscal Impact Analysis numbers are assuming that all development costs will be paid for developers.
  • The administration stated that in reality this will not be the case. Reason for this assumption is because cost sharing negotiations between stake-holders (county/province) cannot happen until the Area Concept Plan stage. The assumption can seriously impede the interpretation of the analysis unless this is clearly understood.

Our discussions with the development community have revealed:

Regarding utility servicing, both off-site and on-site:

“In reality, all storm, sanitary and water infrastructure is a cost born by developers so it is of no consequence to the municipality, or to the taxpayers ultimately.”

Regarding transportation infrastructure, both off-site and on-site:\

“…the arterial on-site road cost for both Bremner and Colchester would be the same as developers would have to pay for the initial construction.  The big difference is off-site access where signalization costs about $350K/intersection and only at such time as traffic warrants the signalization.  As signalization is not an option for Bremner, the cost for interchanges would dwarf any signalization cost and no developer would upfront this cost. This type of infrastructure must be funded by provincial and municipal taxpayers.”

  • Adjusting for this truth:
    • Bremner off-site transportation will cost municipal/provincial tax payers $573.1 million dollars which is $380.7 million dollars more than Colchester.
    • The true taxpayer cost for Bremner is $10,613 per capita
    • The true taxpayer cost for Colchester is $4,952 per capita which is less than half of Bremner.


19-15 Fiscal Impact Analysis – On Site Infrastructure

  • On site infrastructure is at the cost of developers, and is about the same for both areas with Bremner being slightly more than Colchester per capita.

20-16 Fiscal Impact Analysis – Community funded infrastructure

  • The difference per capita between the two areas is less than 4%, with Colchester being slightly more than Bremner.

Appendix B – Soils Ratings

  • 87% of Bremner soil is prime 1-2. This represents 9.36% of the county’s soil of this classification.
  • 0% of Colchester soil is prime 1-2. This represents 0% of the county’s soil of this classification.
    • Strathcona County’s Agricultural Master Plan classifies prime agricultural land as those containing 1-2 soils. The plan states that prime agricultural land should be developed only as a last resort.

Appendix C – Beaver Hills Moraine

  • The county contains 170,550.41 acres of moraine land. Of this 4,623.04 acres are found in Colchester.
  • This represents 2.71% of the moraine land in the county.
  • The total moraine is 607 square miles spread over parts of 5 different counties. Colchester represents 1.24% of the total moraine.
  • The moraine land is separated into 3 categories:
    • Core (the most important parts of the moraine.)
    • Buffer (areas surrounding the core)
    • Transition (areas on the edge of the moraine farthest from the core)
  • The UNESCO Biosphere application is for only the core moraine areas presently contained within Elk Island National Park, Blackfoot Recreation Area, Ministik Bird Sanctuary and Miquelon Provincial Park.
  • All Colchester Moraine land is classified as “Transition Area” with the exception of the Sherwood Park Natural Area, which is identified on page 11-7 as a fully protected key feature and amenity of Colchester.

Appendix D – Significant Natural Features.

  • Class 1-2 soils are listed as a significant natural feature of Bremner and all are in jeopardy under the Proposed Community Development Plan for Bremner.
  • All of the listed significant natural features of Colchester, including wetlands, are protected under the Proposed Community Development Plan for Colchester.

Appendix H – Assumptions

  • In most cases more information on both areas will need to wait until the ACP stage and/or FIA stage. All cost therefore shown as developer funded.
  • Reality: All off-site transportation access infrastructure is paid for by taxpayers. Utility service infrastructure, both on site and off, as well as on site transportation, are all developer funded.

Off-Site Infrastructure

What is it? What will it cost? Who pays?

What is it?

“Off-site infrastructure refers to any new hard infrastructure or upgrades to existing hard infrastructure outside of the boundaries of the subject area required to service the development. This includes provincial infrastructure such as highways and interchanges.” – the matrix page 14


What will it cost?

Bremner:      $573.1 million dollars

Colchester:   $192.4 million dollars

Difference of $380.7 million dollars more for Bremner than Colchester

Broken down per capita: Per capita costs are the off-site infrastructure costs divided by the total respective population at full build out.

Bremner:      $10,613

Colchester:   $4,952

Difference of $5,661 dollars per person more for Bremner than Colchester


Who pays?

Historically, off-site infrastructure is cost shared between the municipality and the province. It is NOT paid for by developers. Developers pay on-site transportation costs (roads) as well as on-site and off-site utility costs (water, sewer, storm water).


Off-site transportation costs must be negotiated between the province and the municipality. The county administration has stated that such negotiations cannot take place with the province until an Area Concept Plan (ACP) is produced for the selected area.

Historical evidence indicates that a reasonable cost share assumption is 25% paid for by the municipality and 75% paid for by the province.

Assuming this scenario, the tax-payer costs for off-site infrastructure would break-down as follows:

For Bremner:

$573.1 million x 25% = $143,275,000 to County of Strathcona tax payers

$573.1 million x 75% = $429,825,000 to Province of Alberta tax payers

For Colchester:

$192.4 million x 25% = $48,100,000 to County of Strathcona tax payers

$192.4 million x 75% = $144,300,000 to Province of Alberta tax payers

Difference of $95,175,000 MORE to County of Strathcona tax payers for Bremner than Colchester.