Council Decisions from mid-June through July
In their last two meetings in June and their four meetings in July, Council pushed through an enormous number of items. These would have been three months worth of council meetings under council’s standard meeting schedules.
The most significant decisions, in chronological order, included:
Waiving the six-month waiting period to bring back the application for the Damkar lands in Bearspaw
Referring the developer-funded Shepard Industrial ASP to Administration for further work
Approving a significantly scaled down expansion for Burnco’s West Cochrane gravel pit
Approving the Rocky Creek Concept Scheme with no provisions for developer contributions for the $9.6 million to extend piped servicing for the development
Neglecting to act on a motion to drop the appeal of the sanctions decision
Tabling the developer-funded East Hwy 1 ASP
Amending the Elbow View ASP to address the recommendation from Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB) staff to refuse its approval
Returning to pre-Covid public participation rules for public hearings – no more audio/video presentations, despite Administration’s recommendation to retain them
Damkar lands application to return
Less than three weeks after their application was refused, the applicant for the Damkar lands requested waiving the 6-month wait to resubmit their application. The applicant stated that they had revised their proposal to address the reasons for refusal and, as a result, should not have to wait six months before reapplying.
The revised proposal reduces the maximum number of dwelling units from 350 to 200. They are now proposing to replace the original four apartment buildings with 40 villa duplexes and one seniors’ apartment building with 160 units.
Councillors Wright, Kissel, and Hanson argued that the 6-month waiting period is there to address stakeholder fatigue and to allow fulsome public engagement on a revised application. Wright also pointed out that, while the proposed reductions may be significant compared to the original application, it remains a far cry from the existing Watermark concept scheme which includes only 57 seniors’ villas on this site.
Administration stated that, even if the application could be scheduled for a public hearing before the October election, if it had to be referred to the CMRB it could not be finalized until after the election. Under the MGA, councillors who are not present at a public hearing cannot vote on it. As a result, depending on the outcome of the October election, there might have to be a new public hearing. Despite this, the council majority waived the 6-month waiting period.
Developer-funded Shepard Industrial ASP referred to Administration for further work
Last July, council approved terms of reference for a 1,910-acre developer-funded ASP in south-east Rocky View to provide a mix of industrial land uses, including a possible intermodal complex for CP Rail. At council’s June 29th meeting, Administration recommended refusal of the proposed ASP since it is inconsistent with both the RVC – Calgary Intermunicipal Development Plan and the County Plan and only partially consistent with the CMRB’s Interim Growth Plan.
Calgary raised major objections to the proposed ASP. To deal with those objections, council directed Administration to undertake further discussions with Calgary regarding cost and revenue sharing options. Administration is to report back at council’s September 14th meeting.
Good & bad news from council’s decision on Burnco’s West Cochrane gravel pit
On July 6th, council heard Burnco’s application for a 966-acre expansion to its West Cochrane gravel pit. The good news is that council approved only 160 acres. Boehlke, Schule and Gautreau supported Burnco’s full request, even though Administration recommended approving no more than 400 acres.
Both the Stoney Nakoda and Cochrane requested further consultations to address their concerns, submitting video presentations to reinforce their requests. The Stoney indicated that they had been under lockdown because of Covid’s overwhelming impact on their community. That, combined with recent awareness of unmarked graves and the identification of many tipi rings on Burnco’s land, was the basis for their request. Cochrane raised concerns including traffic and water quality impacts. Kissel’s motion for such consultations was defeated in a 5 / 4 vote with support from only Henn, Hanson, and Wright.
Gautreau opposed further consultations with indigenous groups, claiming that was the federal and provincial governments’ responsibility. Before making that assertion, he referred to his own heritage and asserted that he had “never once played the indigenous card”. He also stated that, as a child, he had attended residential school. It is unclear how Gautreau’s heritage is relevant for the decision or how higher levels of government can be responsible for consultations on a purely municipal land use decision.
But that’s not all the bad news. The council majority decided that there was no need for a third-party review to resolve contradictory hydrogeological conclusions presented by Burnco and Dr. Fennell, an independent professional hired by residents. This was despite Burnco’s assertion that they would work with Fennel to resolve water quality concerns. Wright’s motion for such a review was defeated in a 5 / 4 vote, with only McKylor, Hanson and Kissel supporting her motion. The rest apparently believe that a third-party review is a waste of resources and that the applicant’s studies are more than sufficient.
Rocky Creek Concept Scheme approved with no provision for the $9.6 million cost of extending piped servicing
The Rocky Creek concept scheme is for a mix of residential, commercial, and industrial land uses on 639 acres at the northeast corner of Hwy 566 and Range Road 11 in West Balzac. It includes up to 1,306 dwelling units on 260 acres, 168 acres of industrial development, and 17 acres for mixed commercial/residential development.
Staff pointed out that the extension of water and wastewater servicing from East to West Balzac only supports a maximum of 1,000 houses. Alberta Transportation also indicated that it would permit the construction of no more than 200 homes before the interchanges at Hwy 2 and Hwy 566 and/or 40 Avenue are upgraded. Calgary and Airdrie also raised concerns with the concept scheme.
In its 2020 capital budget, council approved taking $9.6 million out of the Tax Stabilization Reserve to extend water and wastewater servicing from East to West Balzac. The Rocky Creek concept scheme proposes more housing units than can be serviced by that extension. When Wright asked whether this development would be required to cover that cost, Boehlke challenged her on a point of order. His challenge was upheld by Deputy Reeve McKylor, who was chairing the hearing. It is noteworthy that the County currently has no off-site levies for water/wastewater infrastructure in West Balzac. As a result, it is not clear how this development will cover those costs.
Hanson’s questions about the development’s fiscal impact for the county were also challenged, this time by Gautreau. His questions were also ruled out of order by McKylor. Interestingly, both servicing and fiscal impacts are issues that are supposed to be dealt with in concept schemes according to County Plan policy. Boehlke and Gautreau clearly were determined to shut down questions that we believe are relevant for assessing the appropriateness of any development proposal.
This was yet another example of the council majority’s extremely troubling habit of deferring substantive issues to the subdivision stage. From our perspective, this is completely inappropriate. The decision as to whether an application should proceed needs to be made at the concept scheme and redesignation stage. By the time an application gets to the subdivision stage, the issues are how it should proceed, not if it should proceed.
Motion to withdraw appeal of sanctions decision left in limbo
On July 20th Council was to deal with Kissel’s motion to have the county withdraw its appeal of last July’s court decision that threw out the sanctions imposed on her, Hanson, and Wright. The motion pointed out that the appeal will not be heard until at least the spring of 2022 and that the legal costs for the appeal are being paid directly by Rocky View ratepayers, not the county’s legal insurance. The motion also noted that, even without the court decision, the sanctions would have expired by now. Given these facts, Kissel’s motion requested that council direct Administration to withdraw its appeal of the Court of Queen’s Bench decision.
Before any discussion occurred, Schule asked to have the matter moved in-camera. After a short discussion behind closed doors, the council majority returned and “rose without reporting”. Exactly what that means is not clear. From comments Reeve Henn made in a recent news article, Council may revisit the motion. In the meantime, the financial bleeding from legal fees continues. From our perspective, it is incomprehensible that the council majority can’t simply acknowledge that they lost and move on.
Developer-funded East Hwy 1 ASP tabled for further work
Last July, Council approved terms of reference for a 3,855-acre developer-funded ASP south of the Trans-Canada highway east of Chestermere to RVC’s border with Wheatland County. The ASP was to provide a range of industrial uses focused on agriculture-related industries and had assumed the new Municipal Development Plan would be approved to support development in this area.
At the July 27th meeting, staff recommended refusal because of inconsistencies with the CMRB’s Interim Growth Plan, questionable servicing, and lack of sufficient detail to ensure that the ASP didn’t simply facilitate more generic commercial/industrial development in competition with unused capacity in existing ASPs in east RVC. There was also opposition from both Chestermere and Wheatland and concerns from Alberta Transportation.
Council tabled the ASP, directing the applicant to work with the neighbouring municipalities to create a Joint Planning Area and a funding and revenue sharing plan.
Elbow View ASP amended to address CMRB’s refusal recommendation
After Council gave the Elbow View ASP second reading in May, it went to the CMRB for its review and approval. CMRB staff and their third-party reviewer recommended refusing the ASP. Their reasons included the fact that the ASP deferred most substantive planning decisions to non-statutory local plans which would sidestep CMRB review of the ASP’s land use and servicing decisions.
Council approved amendments to address the major concerns raised in the CMRB’s administrative review of the original ASP. The revised ASP will now be resubmitted to the CMRB. The motion to send it to the CMRB passed 7 / 2, with Kissel and Wright in opposition.
Gautreau single-handedly kills audio/video presentations for September public hearings
With the province removing all Covid restrictions, council needed to decide how to run public hearings at the last three meetings before the October municipal election. Although council will be going back to live meetings with in-person presentations at public hearings, Administration recommended retaining the option for stakeholders to submit audio/video presentations.
Administration’s recommendations were supported by all of council except McKylor and Gautreau. As a result, the amendments to the procedure bylaw were given first and second reading. However, under MGA rules, for council to vote on all three readings in one sitting there must be unanimous consent to do so.
Initially both McKylor and Gautreau voted against the obligatory motion to consider third reading. Administration then explained that, because of notification requirements for September’s public hearings, if the amendments were not approved at the July 27th meeting, public hearings would revert to pre-covid rules and people would not be able to submit audio/video presentations.
After that explanation and a statement from Boehlke emphasizing the implications of refusing to consider third reading, McKylor requested that the motion be reconsidered. Despite all of that, Gautreau again refused unanimous consent. As a result, the changes could not be given third reading. While it is within his right, it is beyond our comprehension why Gautreau thinks he should exercise such dictatorial power and overrule the clear preferences of his eight colleagues.