Springbank Area Structure Plans Receive Second Reading
On March 1st Council gave second reading to amended versions of the North & South Springbank ASPs. The public hearing for the South Springbank ASP was concluded on Feb. 16th, as scheduled, but the hearing for the North Springbank ASP was carried over to Feb. 22nd. Council then needed an additional meeting on March 1st to finish dealing with amendments to both ASPs.
The ASPs will now go to the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB) for its review.
Up to the last minute, Administration was working with Calgary trying to resolve the City’s opposition to the ASPs. After its Feb. 22nd meeting, the County received a follow-up letter from Calgary. At the beginning of its March 1st meeting, the majority on Council decided to not accept the letter, referring to it as a “late submission”. As a result, whatever comments Calgary made in response to their last-minute discussions with Administration were not considered by Council.
In addition to the public hearings for both Springbank ASPs, the County also scheduled the public hearing for the new Municipal Development Plan on Feb. 16th. It is incomprehensible how Administration or the Reeve and Deputy Reeve (who vet the agendas) thought it was appropriate to schedule three major public hearings for the same day. Council is scheduled to finish its deliberations on the new Municipal Development Plan on March 8th.
Amendments to the Springbank ASPs – changing the face of Springbank
There were many amendments made to both ASPs, most of which did not substantially change their direction. However, there were a few that altered its direction significantly.
Commercialization of the Trans-Canada corridor – Deputy Reeve McKylor successfully amended the entire length of the Trans-Canada corridor to business use – switching the cluster residential land uses in the North ASP to business-transition. This was approved despite Administration stating that these changes would considerably impact both the transportation and servicing plans for the ASPs. Administration also pointed out that the business-transition policies had not been drafted to apply to these areas.
Villa condo rule changes – Councillor Gautreau was determined to have both ASPs’ villa condo policies permit 4-storey buildings with 20 units/acre (upa), rather than the 4 upa proposed in the ASPs. He got halfway there with the South Springbank ASP, which was amended to allow 10 upa. After a somewhat farcical series of failed amendments, the North Springbank ASP’s villa condo policies were left at 4 upa.
McKylor made it clear that she would have supported 20 upa in the North Springbank ASP with a requirement for connection to piped water and wastewater; but would only support 10 – 11 upa without such mandatory connections. Her amendment to go with 11 upa for villa condo units in the North Springbank ASP was one of the series of failed amendments on this issue.
As a result, the higher density alternatives are only available in the South ASP where there is no expectation of piped servicing. If this doesn’t highlight Council’s incompetent and arbitrary approach to the amendments, we aren’t sure what does.
Urban interface areas stay as proposed – Councillor Hanson attempted to address residents’ concerns with the Urban Interface Areas. However, the council majority was not interested, so those policies remain unchanged in both ASPs.
Councillors’ voting rationales
Hanson spoke first and indicated that while the ASP process had taken four years, he felt that the County had “fumbled the ball at the 5-yard line”. He said that while residents don’t have the last word, a good engagement process wouldn’t have lost their support so thoroughly. He flagged unresolved concerns about stormwater and groundwater. He indicated that he had planned to suggest tabling for further discussions with Calgary; however, since council had refused to read Calgary’s latest letter, he felt that was pointless.
Boehlke asserted that the people who live north and south of the Trans-Canada have clearly differing mindsets. He said he supported the ASPs because they are consistent with what the residents want – that, in his opinion, residents had been accommodated.
Kissel stated that she believed there needed to be further public engagement and that residents were not considered in the final drafts of the ASPs.
Wright pointed out that the feedback clearly indicated that stakeholders are split – developers/large landowners were happy, but residents were not. She agreed with Hanson that the whole process had been a marathon and she didn’t understand why there needed to be a sudden sprint to the finish line. She also stated that she couldn’t support a document with such unrealistic population targets that provided for more than three times the anticipated population growth for the entire County.
McKylor then provided her reasons for supporting the ASP. Contrary to the previous comments, she stated that she didn’t see the process as rushed; that ASPs are never fully built out; and that she trusted Administration’s advice that the ASPs are consistent with the CMRB’s Interim Growth Plan. Interestingly, this last assertion directly contradicts Administration’s concerns that some of the last-minute amendments would not meet with CMRB approval.
Henn felt the ASPs were well done and, in speaking to people he knew in Springbank, the ASPs actually had more support than was suggested at the public hearings. He also stated that Council had gone well beyond what was necessary to accommodate Calgary’s concerns.
In what is becoming increasingly common, Gautreau and Schule gave no reasons for their support. Kamachi was once again absent, even though McKylor has repeatedly stated that he is the third councillor responsible for the Springbank area.
As we said in our earlier updates on the ASPs, it is obvious that the wishes of large landowners and developers prevailed. The preferences of Springbank residents were largely ignored.
As drafted, the new ASPs turn a blind eye to Springbank’s existing groundwater problems. Facilitating higher density residential development that will rely heavily on communal wastewater systems will unavoidably worsen these issues.
The Springbank ASPs provide for a population that, realistically, will not exist for many decades. The full build-out population (almost 55,000) vastly exceeds the entire County’s forecast growth of 17,000 over the next 20 years. As a result, the ASPs will not provide any order for future development within Springbank and the area’s remaining agricultural land will be further fragmented.
It remains to be seen if the CMRB will approve the ASPs. Council’s decision to not even look at Calgary’s letter cannot be a positive step towards improving intermunicipal relations or working amicably with our regional partners. In our opinion, Council has failed the residents, not only of Springbank but of the entire County.