Update on December 2021 Council Meetings

Council held two meetings in December. Their most noteworthy decision dealt with the status of the Springbank Area Structure Plans. Council directed Administration “to undertake further work to refine [the] current draft Plans … prior to returning to Council for a public hearing [in] spring 2022”.

While it is true that the Springbank ASPs are old, the community indicated that it is generally happy with them as they are. It is also true that tremendous mistrust and skepticism was created by the previous council’s total disregard of the input Springbank residents provided during the lengthy ASP process. As a result, we had hoped to see more detailed direction to Administration, since simply “refining” the current documents or the immediately preceding document may not achieve buy-in from the community. See below for details.

Other important decisions from the December council meetings included:

  • Council approved purchasing land in the same quarter section as the Springbank Park for All Seasons;

  • No further work will be done on the Municipal Development Plan until after the province makes its decision on the Calgary Metropolitan Board’s Regional Growth Plan;

  • Two of the three east-side developer-funded ASPs (Shepard Industrial ASP and Glenmore Trail ASP) have been tabled and the East Highway 1 ASP has been rescinded;

  • Byron Reiman is replacing Kent Robinson as Acting CAO.

Springbank ASPs to be “refined”

Council approved staff’s recommendation to continue working on the Springbank ASPs under revised Terms of Reference. The terms of reference, as presented to council, appear to be seriously constrained both in terms of the scope of work and the timeframe. They direct Administration “to undertake further work to refine [the] current draft Plans … prior to returning to Council for a public hearing [in] spring 2022”. We are skeptical whether “refinements” can create what we see as important community buy-in.

On a positive note, there were encouraging comments from both council and Administration in the discussion. Other than the unrealistic timeframe, there is nothing in the Terms of Reference that stops Administration from doing what the community will see as a good job. However, there is also nothing that will ensure that the process meets residents’ expectations. As a result, residents will have to rely on council to ensure that their interests are appropriately reflected as the process unfolds. Regarding the constrained timeline, staff responded to questions by asserting that there wasn’t a firm timeline and that they would spend the time necessary to do the job. That was certainly reassuring.

From the discussion, there appeared to be confusion about the Springbank community’s views on the draft ASPs that may have left the impression that residents’ concerns focused primarily on the split into two ASPs and not on the overall land use strategy. We emphasize “confusion” since staff also noted that they expected to see a reduction in higher density developments in a refined plan.

There is also little guidance regarding the public engagement to be undertaken at this stage. Many in the community share “once bitten, twice shy” fears because of what they saw as the derailment of the ASP process under the previous council. Given the volume of public input collected since early 2017, most of which was ignored, this council will need ensure there is adequate direction so that all resident feedback is considered in revising the ASP(s).

The five councillors who supported Administration’s new terms of reference (Hanson, Kochan, Kissel, Wright, and Samra) all campaigned on resident-focused platforms. Would they live up to those commitments better if they had provided clearer guidance to ensure that there will be community buy-in for the ASP(s) that emerge? We believe that buy-in is particularly important given that the existing Springbank ASPs were community driven and remain very popular in the community.

If you have questions or concerns about how the ASP process may unfold, consider emailing the local councillors Kevin Hanson – krhanson@rockyview.ca and Don Kochan –dkochan@rockyview.ca – either now or in the new year once things actually start moving forward again.

$2 million purchase of land beside Springbank Park for All Seasons

After a closed session, in a surprise move council approved purchasing land in the same quarter section as the Springbank Park for All Seasons. The accompanying budget adjustment for $2 million is coming from the Springbank Recreation Reserve, the fund established for the $10 million received from the province as compensation for SR1. Kissel and Wright opposed the purchase stating that they did not believe there was sufficient information to support the purchase.

This appears to be the land that has been discussed for many years as the potential location for expansion of recreation facilities at the SPAS. While this may be a logical purchase, we are confused with the timing. The County is in mid-stream with its discussions with community representatives to establish a business case for a multi-use community facility in South Springbank. It seems unlikely that such a multi-use facility and a SPAS expansion can both be justified as necessary upgrades to recreation amenities in the Springbank area.

Admin asked the new Council for direction on outstanding ASPs and MDP

At its December 14th council meeting, Administration asked Council for direction on the planning documents that were left in limbo after the October election – the revised Municipal Development Plan and the two Springbank ASPs, which were all rejected by the CMRB, and three developer-funded ASPs on the east side of the county – the Shepard Industrial ASP, the East Highway 1 ASP, and the Glenmore Trail ASP – which are in various stages of completion. Council’s decision on the Springbank ASPs was discussed above. Its decisions on the other planning documents are outlined below.

Municipal Development Plan Tabled

Council unanimously concurred with staff’s recommendation to table any further work on the Municipal Development Plan (MDP) until after the province makes its decision on the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board’s Regional Growth Plan.

From our perspective, that is logical. Assuming the CMRB’s Regional Growth Plan is approved by the province in the near future (likely a reasonable assumption), Rocky View will then have three years to bring its MDP into compliance with the Regional Growth Plan. In the interim, it would seem foolhardy to revise the MDP until the details of the CMRB’s final Plan are known. The existing County Plan works reasonably well and has public support. As a result, it is not clear what would be gained by moving forward more quickly.

Shepard Industrial ASP Tabled

The Shepard Industrial ASP is a developer-funded ASP in south-east Rocky View the public hearing for which was held in June 2021. At that time, the previous council tabled the ASP to enable Administration to work with Calgary on potential cost and revenue sharing options for the area. It was hoped that this approach would address Calgary’s serious objections to Rocky View proceeding with an ASP in an area identified as one of Calgary’s future industrial growth corridors in the Calgary / Rocky View Intermunicipal Development Plan.

Calgary subsequently filed an annexation application for just over 4,000 acres which include the Shepard Industrial ASP’s 1,910 acres. Calgary has indicated that, although it remains opposed to the Shepard Industrial ASP, it is willing to explore cost sharing, collaboration, and updating the Intermunicipal Development Plan as part of the annexation negotiations.

Administration recommended rescinding the Shepard Industrial ASP since it was inconsistent with both the County Plan and the RVC/Calgary Intermunicipal Development Plan. As well, they pointed out that this ASP was one of the biggest hurdles in Rocky View’s relationship with Calgary and that, if the ASP is only tabled rather than rescinded, it would likely make the annexation negotiations more difficult.

Despite this advice, the Shepard Industrial ASP was tabled until after the annexation negotiations are completed on a 4 / 3 vote with support from Boehlke, Schule, Kissel, and Samra.

East Highway 1 ASP rescinded

Administration recommended rescinding the East Highway 1 developer-funded ASP since it is inconsistent with the County Plan and the CMRB’s Interim Growth Plan. Council concurred with that recommendation and rescinded the ASP in a 4 / 3 vote with Boehlke, Schule, and Kissel opposed.

The East Highway 1 ASP had been tabled at the conclusion of its July 2021 public hearing with direction for the applicant to work with the neighbouring municipalities to create a Joint Planning Area with a funding and revenue sharing plan. Schule asked why Council was being asked for direction when the applicant had not returned with the information requested in the earlier tabling motion. Staff indicated that the applicant has done no work on the ASP since the July 2021 public hearing as they are waiting to see if the CMRB’s Regional Growth Plan is approved.

Glenmore Trail ASP tabled

Administration also recommended rescinding the Glenmore Trail ASP, which is jointly funded by the County and a group of area landowners. Their reasoning was that the ASP, which received first reading in September 2021, has no support in the County Plan or in the CMRB’s Interim Growth Plan. Rather than following Admin’s recommendation, council tabled the ASP until after the CMRB’s Regional Growth Plan is approved in a 5 / 2 vote with only Kochan and Wright opposed.

New Acting CAO

As of January 1st, Byron Reiman will replace Kent Robinson as Acting CAO. In making the change, Mayor Kochan pointed out that it is unusual to have anyone serve as an Acting CAO for such a long time (9 months to date) and that the combined workload from that position and Mr. Robinson’s Executive Director position is significant.

With the County budget coming forward early in the new year, the majority on council appear to have decided that freeing up more of Kent Robinson’s time to deal with that responsibility made sense. The decision was supported by everyone on council other than Boehlke and Schule.

Regarding the County’s 2022 budget, two days have been scheduled for council to consider the budget – Monday, January 17th and Tuesday, January 18th, both starting at 9:00 am. The notice for the special meeting does not indicate whether submissions / presentations from the public will be part of these meetings. Once we have any further information on these meetings, we will let you know.

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