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Municipal Government Board decision on Conrich ASP appeals

On May 10, 2017, the Municipal Government Board (MGB) issued its rulings on Calgary and Chestermere’s appeals of Rocky View’s Conrich ASP. If you read Rocky View’s press release, it appears that the MGB’s decision was a complete vindication of Rocky View’s behaviour with respect to the Conrich ASP. Nothing could be further from reality.

The County has been in a battle with our two neighbours over the Conrich ASP for the better part of two years. To date, this battle has cost the County well over a half a million dollars in legal fees. The crux of the complaints filed by both Calgary and Chestermere were Conrich's potential negative impact on traffic, storm water management, and competition for commercial and industrial development.

Throughout the process Rocky View has maintained that it is a good neighbour and it is Calgary and Chestermere who have been the aggressors. In usual Rocky View fashion, it believes that it has done nothing wrong and Conrich is yet another shining example of the brilliant planning in Rocky View. The County actually appears to believe that its neighbours' complaints were founded on jealousy and fears of competition rather than on sound planning concerns.

It is true that the MGB dismissed Chestermere’s appeal as having failed to demonstrate that the Conrich ASP would be detrimental to Chestermere. However, that does not mean that potential negative impacts do not exist. Instead, in the duel between competing consultants and expert witnesses, which took place in the MGB’s quasi-judicial venue, Chestermere’s experts were simply not as persuasive.

As a result, the MGB advised Rocky View and Chestermere to resolve their differences through their existing intra-municipal protocols and agreements. Not quite the win claimed by Reeve Boehlke when he stated that the "MGB ruling is a clear victory for the County." Nor the ability to forge ahead as expeditiously as Councillor Solberg claimed "after years of planning and consultation, everyone is excited to finally be able to move forward."

The County's press release conveniently glosses over the mediated settlement it reached with Calgary, the terms of which the MGB imposed as resolution of Calgary’s appeal. In that settlement, Rocky View acknowledged that the Conrich ASP, as approved by Council, was detrimental to Calgary. In addressing these impacts, the terms of the mediated settlement impose substantial hurdles for any development in the area.

For example, Rocky View must acknowledge that the Conrich ASP will impose significant costs on Calgary’s transportation infrastructure. Rocky View will be required to work with Calgary to plan needed transportation upgrades and to pay its share of the costs of those upgrades before any development can proceed.

More importantly, Rocky View had to agree to zero storm water discharge from any development in Conrich that proceeds before a regional storm water management system has been agreed to and implemented. (Inter-municipal negotiations to develop a regional system have been ongoing for the past five years and, at latest count, will cost the County at least $50 million.) Zero discharge means that every drop of rain that falls on a newly developed property in Conrich has to stay on that property. Given that in 2015, Rocky View County paid over $500,000 to pump an over-flooding pond in Conrich, this is beyond an onerous solution. Not exactly in keeping with the County's claim that it "was a mediated agreement that successfully meets the needs of both municipalities."

Rocky View’s chastisement of Chestermere for being a bad neighbour reeks of hypocrisy. Calgary formally requested mediation twice to resolve its concerns with the Conrich ASP before Rocky View approved the ASP. Rocky View only bothered to respond and agree to mediation with Calgary when it was faced with the alternative of a full MGB hearing that might have thrown out the entire Conrich ASP. A good neighbour would not have brought forward a development proposal that was so strongly opposed by its immediate neighbours and would certainly have not ignored requests to settle their differences at earlier stages.

It is difficult to understand Rocky View’s positioning that development in Conrich can now proceed as they had always intended it to do. The conditions imposed by the MGB mean that any new development in the area will have to bear significantly higher costs than either developers or the County would have ever anticipated. Costs that will no doubt be fronted by existing residents if this Council is re-elected in October.

For a link to the County's press release on the Conrich ruling, click here.

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