Update on Council's May 2021 Decisions
At their meetings in May, Council made the following significant decisions:
Approved the Gateway Village proposal in Bragg Creek
Gave second reading to the Elbow View ASP covering 2,200 acres west of Elbow Valley on Highway 8 referred it to the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB)
Approved borrowing bylaws totalling just under $20 million for the purchase of Blazer Water System and Horse Creek Water & Wastewater Services
Refused to support the final version of the CMRB’s Regional Growth and Servicing Plans
Refused the Damkar application for four 2 – 4 storey apartment buildings at Highway 1A and 12 Mile Coulee Road
At the applicant’s request, amended the Hwy 1 – Old Banff Coach Road application for 800,000 sq.ft of commercial space and housing for just under 1,000 residents before it is sent to the CMRB. The application had been given 2nd reading on April 13th
Began the hiring process for a new permanent Chief Administrative Officer.
Gateway Village Approved Unanimously
Gateway Village is a proposal by a local developer to revitalize the Bragg Creek hamlet through the construction of a hotel/conference centre, mixed use commercial/residential buildings, multi-family residential dwellings, an amphitheatre, and the reconstruction of the Steak Pit restaurant.
There was both support and opposition to the project from the community. Many of those concerned about the project were worried about the project’s impact on Bragg Creek’s ongoing traffic congestion problems. From information presented, it appears that Alberta Transportation plans to address the traffic issues on a timeline that will fit with the build out of this project.
The project appears to be well thought out to complement and strengthen the existing hamlet. The developer, Mr. Koetsier, went above and beyond with his public engagement with residents, demonstrating that even in Covid times meaningful consultations are possible.
Elbow View ASP
The Elbow View ASP was given second reading on May 11th even though it became clear at the public hearing that the developer group backing the ASP will have difficulty delivering on the ASP’s vision to have a Village Core overlooking the Elbow River or to provide meaningful public access to the River from that Village Core. This is because the landowner where these amenities were to be located made it clear that they intend to continue farming their land into future generations. These were key “selling points” that could have distinguished this development from generic suburban sprawl.
Debt-financed purchases of two utility systems
The County will be borrowing $9 million to purchase the Blazer Water System that serves Watermark and other communities in south-east Bearspaw and $10.45 million to purchase Horse Creek Water & Wastewater Services Inc. that serves properties in the Cochrane Lakes area.
Two developers in the Cochrane Lakes area are to pay $5.95 million of the debt for the Horse Creek purchase. However, that repayment will be over the 25-year term of the debt and leaves the County with all the operating and financial risks as owner of the utility.
The County acknowledged that both utilities will require financial support to cover anticipated operating deficits – at least $1.6 million for Blazer and $1.7 million for Horse Creek over the next 3 years.
Administration recommended acquiring both utilities based on their cash flow projections. From our perspective, those projections appear to rely on highly optimistic growth projections. In Blazer’s case, Administration assumed that its customer base would increase by 16% – 17% each year over the next five years. For Horse Creek, its customer base is anticipated to grow by 47% each year for the next five years. Rocky View’s overall growth rate over the last few years has been 2% - 3% per year.
Administration was unable to provide concrete explanations to substantiate these apparently unrealistic growth rates. As a result, we are skeptical whether these “investments” will provide anything other than a cash drain in the foreseeable future for Rocky View residents beyond the utilities’ immediate service areas.
Council Opposes Final CMRB Regional Growth & Servicing Plans
On May 17th, Council received a briefing from the CMRB on the final Regional Growth & Servicing Plans that will be submitted to the Province by June 1st. After the briefing, Council held an in-camera session. At the end of their closed discussion, in a 6 / 2 vote, Council passed a detailed motion objecting to the Plans and directing Reeve Henn to vote against approval of the Plans at the CMRB. Councillors Hanson and Wright did not support the motion and Councillor Kissel was absent.
Damkar Application Refused
The proposal to build four 2 – 4 storey apartment buildings on the Damkar lands just south-west of Hwy 1A and 12 Mile Coulee Road was rejected by Council in a 7 / 2 vote, with only Councillors Gautreau and Kamachi supporting the applicant. It seems that apartments buildings with densities up to 28 upa is too much for many of the councillors who usually support higher density proposals.
Amending the already-approved Hwy1/Old Banff Coach Road development
At the April 13th public hearing, Administration suggested that Council review possible amendments to Qualico’s concept scheme to address at least some of the City of Calgary’s opposition. Council refused to even consider the amendments, saying that Calgary had ample time to provide its comments and they saw no need to modify the concept scheme to accommodate the city.
Subsequent to the April 13th public hearing, Qualico approached Administration to request that Council reconsider and incorporate the proposed amendments. They felt that their proposal’s chances of approval at the CMRB would be greater if it included wording to acknowledge the need for cost-sharing with Calgary for the development’s impact on city infrastructure and services.
These amendments were approved at Council’s May 25th meeting, and the application will now go to the CMRB for its review. We wholeheartedly support the concept that Rocky View developments should have to bear the costs associated with their reliance on city infrastructure and services. However, in this case the process to get there was seriously flawed. To the best of our knowledge, no council has ever reopened and modified its decisions on land use decisions without holding a follow-up public hearing. Also, the process clearly demonstrates the short-sightedness of the council majority’s practice to routinely dismiss concerns raised by the City of Calgary.
Hiring a new CAO
Council directed Administration to start the process to hire a permanent CAO to replace Al Hoggan who left in mid-April. The discussion made it clear that this council does not anticipate hiring a new CAO; but is starting the process so that after the October election the new council can move more quickly on this hiring decision. As a result, Kent Robinson can be expected to remain as Acting CAO until after the October election.