ROCKY VIEW FORWARD
The Residents' Perspective
Division 1 - Bragg Creek - Jumping Pound - Brushy Ridge
CL Movie Studios
This land use redesignation decision in late January provides a glaring example of Council ‘s disregard for residents’ concerns and for the reality that cronyism is alive and well in Rocky View. An unlicensed film studio has been operating in the County for over 20 years. The County knew about it and brokered a deal. In exchange for receiving $5,000/year in extra property taxes, to reflect its commercial rather than agricultural nature, the County turned a blind eye to the fact that the movie set was in clear violation of the land use bylaw.
A few years ago, the landowner switched from using roads through their own property to the County’s gravel township road. This created traffic volumes to the film studio in vast excess of the road’s design capacity. The increase in dust, noise, and traffic safety concerns resulted in complaints from neighbouring land owners. These caused the County to insist that something be done to bring the property into compliance with the land use bylaw.
Administration recommended deferring the redesignation of the 40 acres requested by the landowner until technical studies addressed access issues (currently the property does not have direct access to a paved County road as required for commercial properties) and to address traffic volume issues on Township Road 242 and the intersection with Highway 22. Instead, Council approved redesignating 160 acres immediately (four times that which was requested) with the technical studies to be deferred to the development permit stage, if and when that comes forward.
The conclusion was so orchestrated that Councillor Lowther forgot where they were in the proceedings and encouraged his colleagues to support the 160-acre redesignation before the public hearing was even half over. An action that forced him to recuse himself from the remainder of the hearing and from voting on the application. It didn’t matter, the damage had been done - his recommendation was the one rendered. Further reinforcing that a decision had been made prior to Council meeting, Reeve Boehlke apologized to the landowner for having to sit through such a long public hearing. Of course, no apology was made to the negatively impacted surrounding landowners for completely ignoring their concerns.
The contrasts between this decision and others is stark. 17 years ago, a couple who living along this same Township Road had applied to build their home near the west end of the road. The County told them the road was substandard and they would have to upgrade it at their own expense before being granted a building permit. One family moving on the road warranted a total road upgrade, however, a film studio generating as many as 800 vehicles a day did not.
Greater Bragg Creek
Decentralized water and sewer systems were the main challenges faced by the Hamlet of Bragg Creek residents and businesses during past decades, until provincial and federal grants prompted the construction of municipal water and wastewater systems.
A remaining challenge is posed by the lack of emergency egress for the West Bragg Creek and Wintergreen areas, located on the west side of the Elbow River.
The only river crossing to access those areas is the Balsam Avenue bridge in the hamlet, which could be insufficient or become closed during catastrophic events such as fires on the densely forested area, or floods.
During a catastrophic flood in 2013, residents west of the river were effectively left stranded when the bridge was closed as a precautionary measure. The County is in the process of working with involved landowners to create a solution that is acceptable to everyone.
Greater Bragg Creek ASP
Council approved changes to the Greater Bragg Creek ASP in November 2016. The amendments were follow-up from the Bragg Creek Revitalization Plan that had recommended changes for helping Bragg Creek recover from the 2013 flood.
After extensive public consultations with residents in the community, the community had coalesced around retaining the minimum lot sizes of 0.46 acres, but allowing more varied housing styles to include duplexes, semi-detached, and accessory dwelling units. This was what was brought forward to Council in November.
At the public hearing, the plan was amended to halve the minimum lot sizes to 0.23 acres. Whether or not this was a good idea, the process was not. When the recommendations coming forward are the results of lengthy, comprehensive public consultations, it is not appropriate to make such substantive changes without going back to the affected community. Council was given the option of deferring a decision until community input could be received, but rejected this opportunity.
The provincial government has plans to improve access to the hamlet by building two round abouts to replace a stop-controlled intersection of Highway 22 and Balsam Avenue and an X-shaped four-way stop at intersection of Highway 22 and White Avenue.
Growth, which was restricted in the hamlet for almost two decades because of servicing health issues, will present new challenges for the hamlet’s character, as revealed by the County’s two first approvals after the 2013 flood: A futurist-looking, out-of-character gas station, followed by a burger joint with drive-through in one of the station’s bays—both approvals occurred in spite of the area councillor, in spite of design guidelines in the Greater Bragg Creek area structure plan and a County-appointed design review committee that has since been disbanded.