Amanda and Bradley Whitlow are a young, professional couple who work in Calgary and live in Okotoks, about 45 kilometres from downtown. They’re in the “63 per cent club,” that portion of the population that makes the trek north, by car or commuter bus, to earn their dollar a day in Calgary.
After living in Cimarron on the south end of Okotoks for several years, the Whitlows are moving to the new Anthem United community of Wedderburn, which will effectively give them back 30 minutes of time every day.
“We like living in Okotoks and really wanted to get on the north side so we can skip those lights you have to go through,” says Bradley.
Saving time was a goal, but so was moving up from the starter home they’d lived in for five years. After considering buying resale, they decided to build from scratch and chose a bungalow style home by Calgary-based builder Prominent Homes.
“We looked at the show homes and saw the bungalow, which was what we really wanted. We both grew up in bungalows,” says Amanda. “Their floor plans fit into our budget with the opportunity to customize everything we wanted.”
The Whitlow’s bungalow has a master suite on the 1,264-square-foot main level with a recreation room, full bathroom and two bedrooms in the 903-square-foot walkout basement.
Prominent’s bungalows in Wedderburn start in the $530,000s, GST included.
The builder’s first foray into Okotoks was in Drake Landing, also an Anthem United community, which is nearing completion.
Prominent general manager Pal Shergill says about 60 per cent of Wedderburn buyers have built bungalows. They also appreciate how spacious the community is.
“The lots are up to 42 feet wide. In Calgary, homes have a four-foot side yard, whereas here, it’s five. That’s an extra two feet of space between neighbours,” he says.
Shergill describes Okotoks, population 31,500, as having the perfect small town-feel with big city amenities.
“As cliche as it sounds, it does add up. You get bigger yards with more space for family. Hockey is local, so there’s more ice time. Schools are closer, with better teacher ratios. Plus, one of the best barbecue joints in Alberta is just up the road,” he says, referring to Big Sky BBQ on Highway 2A.
Prominent also has lots in nearby D’Arcy Ranch and hopes to be a contributing builder in some of the new subdivisions. Those include Tillotson by Tristar Communities in the southwest and Trilogy Plains by Lamont Land in the north.
The future of a previously approved community, Wind Walk, on the south side of Highway 7, is up in the air as it went into receivership in spring 2021.
Okotoks’ most recent municipal development plan projects a population of 75,000 people by 2060, an increase of 40,000. The town is beefing up infrastructure to support that potential growth. That includes widening of Northridge Drive (Highway 2A) and a new interchange at Highway 2 and 338th Avenue.
“We’re working with Foothills County and Alberta Transportation on a functional study. The province is planning on closing some access points at 306th Avenue and 370th Avenue because of accidents, so moving ahead on that interchange is important,” says Jeff Greene, director of Community Growth, Investment and Sustainability.
He says upgrades to the town’s wastewater treatment plan are happening “as we speak” with plans in the works for a water pipeline that would supplement the ever-shrinking supply from the Sheep River.
“We have a pipeline under design right now to bring water from the Bow River and have an application into the province for approval,” he says.
Okotoks has excellent recreation facilities, but Greene says they will need to increase capacity and most importantly, figure out funding.
“On the radar is a new aquatic component to the rec centre and additional arenas. It’s dependent on growth,” he says.
Currently, the town is in discussion with Foothills School Division about possibly sharing a 20-acre future high school site with a new rec facility on the north side of the town.
“It’s an early-day conversation with them and the adjacent developer, Anthem United,” he says.
Personally, Greene moved to Okotoks from Lethbridge more than a year ago and has found that it has a unique, community vibe. He sees that 63 per cent club leave for Calgary during the week, but notes there’s a reverse commute, too.
“There are people coming to work in Okotoks from High River, Black Diamond and Turner Valley. There’s a large service industry that exists here,” he says.
Okotoks has enough people to be called a city, but Greene says there’s zero community interest.
“People still like and appreciate the sentiment of being a town even though in Alberta, you can be a city at 10,000. It’s not on the priority list.”
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