At its June 27th meeting, the Council majority sunk to an all-time low in terms of shameful behaviour. Attending Council meetings on a regular basis leaves one somewhat jaded – but, they managed to far exceed even our expectations for depravity.
The meeting went from one debacle to the next. In the morning, administration attempted to introduce an entirely new residential land use district as part of a specific redesignation application. That would have been newsworthy except for Council’s afternoon deliberations on the Summit gravel application and on the Glenbow Ranch Area Structure Plan.
Summit (Taken from Rocky View Gravel Watch's earlier post)
Having advertised a regular public hearing for the Summit application, the Council majority manipulated their procedures to convince themselves that they had no need to listen to the many residents who had sacrificed their afternoon to speak at the public hearing. They decided to reconvene the hearing at the point at which it had been tabled a year ago, leaving only voting on the application for yesterday’s meeting.
Councillor Arshinoff made a motion to retable the application until after the ARP was complete. This was defeated, with support from only Councillors Breakey and Bahcheli.
Councillor Kendall then rushed in with a motion to close the hearing, pre-empting Councillor Breakey’s motion to hear from the public. Councillors Breakey, Arshinoff, Bahcheli and Ashdown opposed closing the public hearing. Councillors Kendall, Lowther, Habberfield, Solberg and Reeve Boehlke all voted to close the public hearing and not hear from the many who had come out in response to the County’s advertisement of the public hearing.
It was a disgusting display of the worst we have yet seen from this Council. In fact, when one individual spoke up about not being allowed to speak, Reeve Boehlke insisted that he be escorted out of the building. A second individual who tried to make a point of order was given a stern warning. The utter disdain and total lack of respect for the people they are supposed to be representing exhibited by the Council majority was overwhelming.
Council argued that it wasn’t fair to keep Summit waiting for so long – an interesting perspective in a County where it takes a minimum of two years, often longer, to get an uncomplicated business licence. The fact that it isn't fair to residents to rush through applications before the ARP is finalized wasn’t even on the radar for the majority on Council.
Council is now poised to hear two more gravel pit applications on July 11th. The fact these gravel pits are all clustered together on Big Hill Springs Road makes it even more despicable that Council is willing to aid and abet the gravel industry’s rush to evade the stronger rules that everyone knows will soon be in place. One of the major improvements promised in the ARP is controls over the cumulative impacts that unavoidably result from having multiple pits close together. Currently, there are no such controls.
The only reason the Summit application was not approved on June 27th is that Councillors Arshinoff and Bahcheli refused permission for 3rd reading – that will now come back for the July 11th Council meeting.
Glenbow Ranch Area Structure Plan (GRASP)
At the end of the GRASP public hearing on April 25th, Councillor Lowther introduced amendments to have administration look at the feasibility of reducing densities in Cells I and J on the east end of GRASP. Residents had been making these arguments all through the process, not just in cells I and J but also in cell A (on the west side of GRASP). Staff had consistently argued that this was not feasible.
Not surprisingly, staff recommended approving GRASP as drafted. They pointed out numerous problems with Lowther’s proposal to reduce densities – which focused primarily on how this would weaken key components of the plan and its potential viability.
Despite this advice, Lowther introduced amendments at 2nd reading that would reduce the density in Cell I from 2.4 to 2.0 units per acre and in Cell J from 3.0 to 1.0 units per acre and to remove the road connection from Cell J to Bearspaw Village Road. He also repeatedly insisted that none of these amendments were substantive enough to require reopening the public hearing and allowing public input.
Contrary to Lowther’s assertion, people in Division 8 are not generally supportive of the overall plan laid out in GRASP. There are many residents who live in long-established country residential communities immediately adjacent to the proposed high-density development in Cell J who will be severely impacted if this part of GRASP goes ahead as proposed. Recognizing that GRASP was a “done deal” and that no consideration had been given to the plan’s impact on their quality of life, they sensibly tried to protect their interests by proposing lower densities in this area of GRASP. This is completely understandable and their initiative is to be admired. What is not acceptable is Lowther’s exploiting their concerns in what has to be seen as blatant electioneering on his part, otherwise why would he not have included Cell A in his amendments as anyone who had sat through the hearing would know they had similar concerns.
At the same time as the majority on Council supported Lowther’s amendments to address these residents’ concerns, many of them, including Lowther himself, acknowledged that any of these changes could be overturned at the local plan stage. For the sake of these residents, we can only hope that, after the election, we have a better Council in place that actually cares about protecting residents’ interests.
Councillors Arshinoff, Bahcheli and Breakey raised objections to the feasibility of these amendments but were voted down by the majority.
County residents need to express their disgust at the high-handed behaviour that is becoming depressingly more common as the majority on Council frantically work to rush through their sponsors’ projects before the October election. Showing up and complaining at Council meetings isn’t enough. Make sure you tell your friends and neighbours how badly the current majority is abusing their power.
Please, don't just take our word. Listen to the audio file at https://www.rockyview.ca/Government/Council/CouncilMinutesArchives.aspx (June 27th audio part 3, starting at 78 minutes for the Summit Hearing and 151 minutes for Glenbow Ranch) and hear it for yourself.