New Municipal Development Plan - Public Hearing on Feb. 16, 2021
The public hearing for the new Municipal Development Plan (MDP) has been rescheduled to Tuesday, February 16th. The deadline for written submissions is Wednesday, February 3rd. These should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, with Bylaw C-8090-2020 in the subject line. You can access the latest version of the MDP here. You can find our detailed assessment of the Plan in the attached download.
As we have said before, the differences between the County Plan, our current MDP, and the new MDP are not positive for residents. The Feb. 16th public hearing will be the last opportunity for residents to express their views on the proposed changes. If you don’t support the dramatically different direction the MDP is taking, be sure to get your comments in to the County.
The County Plan was developed after extensive consultation with Rocky View residents. Its direction and policies reflected input from people who have chosen Rocky View as their homes.
In contrast, there has been minimal public engagement in the development of the MDP. Despite this, the consultation clearly demonstrated that the priorities of Rocky View residents are the same as they were in 2013 when the County Plan was adopted – to retain the County’s rural character; to support and protect its agricultural base; to protect the environment; and to ensure that growth is both orderly and fiscally responsible.
The MDP’s principles pay lip service to some of these priorities, but completely ignore residents’ top priority – preserving the County’s rural character. A last-minute change to its community development principle is also disturbing. It will now read – “Rocky View County will build resilient communities and welcoming neighbourhoods by promoting concentrated growth within designated development areas”. The bolded words are new. It is difficult to interpret this change as anything other than direction to push higher density, urban-style development as a core feature of the MDP. The question is where did this last-minute change come from.
This change reinforces the MDP’s support for “higher density residential development where appropriate”. On its face, this may sound somewhat reasonable. However, the MDP doesn’t provide any policy guidance for what “appropriate” means. As a result, the determination of “appropriateness” will be left solely to council’s discretion.
Another last-minute change has the MDP acknowledging that traditional agricultural activities should be recognized in its principles. However, no changes have been made in the policies on agriculture. Instead, these continue to focus almost exclusively on facilitating agricultural diversification – frequently “code” for the fragmentation of agricultural lands.
From our perspective, other problems in the MDP include that it:
· Facilitates leapfrog development by substantially expanding “priority growth areas”.
o Fails to provide any constraints on orderly development within these areas.
· Shifts the perspective on why regional partnerships are important.
o The County Plan’s focus was to extend the range of services available to residents. The MDP’s focus is only on resolving development challenges.
· Redefines country residential development to include 1-acre parcels, which will further erode the County’s rural character.
o The original concept of country residential developments is that they are self-sustaining properties without the need for off-site water or wastewater servicing. This is not possible for 1-acre parcels.
· Includes full-service hamlets that currently don’t exist (Glenbow & West Balzac) in its priority growth areas.
o In contrast, fiscally responsible policies would focus development in areas with pre-existing infrastructure.
· Guts the effectiveness of the MDP to provide the over-arching direction for the County’s future development by loosening policy guidance from “shall” to “should”.
o “Must do” requirements become “it would be nice if you did” aspirational statements.
· Removes restrictions on commercial/industrial development adjacent to major highways.
o Ignores residents’ clear priority to maintain scenic vistas along these corridors.
· Abandons guidance for future open pit gravel mines by eliminating requirements for what must be included in applicants’ master site development plans.
o Facilitates complementary industrial activities to locate adjacent to gravel pits.
o Encourages reclamation to other industrial uses.
Overall, we feel that the MDP lacks consistency. It “talks the talk” of rational land use planning; but fails to “walk the walk”. Instead, its policies reflect the develop-at-any-cost preferences of the council majority and their supporters in the development community. The MDP’s significantly looser rules and more permissive oversight should bring cheer to these private interests. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the people who actually live in Rocky View.
We encourage everyone to express their concerns on the proposed MDP. It is poised to become the County’s top level statutory planning document for the next 20+ years.