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Update on January - February Council Meetings

A lot has happened since our last update on Council meetings. Here are the highlights from the January and early February council meetings:

  • A cost-sharing agreement with Harmony and Bingham Crossing for Range Road 33 / Hwy 1 interchange upgrades

  • Terms of reference for revising the County Plan (municipal development plan)

  • Finalizing the Road Licencing Bylaw for undeveloped road allowances

  • Moving toward elimination of the Business – Live Work and Special Future Urban Development land use districts and the Special Function Business discretionary land use – all to be replaced by revised Home-Based Business rules

  • A feasibility study with Cochrane and Calgary to investigate using excess wastewater treatment capacity at Harmony for near term growth in Cochrane and Cochrane Lakes

  • Approving a Waste Collection Bylaw that moves to extend curbside garbage collection to Harmony and Pinebrook

  • Approving the development permit for the Bragg Creek Brewery, now called “The Laskin”

  • Considering a voters’ list and shifting direction to improved voter identification

Other key decisions since our last update include:

  • The Recreation and Governance Committee’s approval of the business cases for an event centre and indoor soccer facility in Springbank and for a field house in Langdon

  • Approval by Administration of the development permit for Costco at Bingham Crossing (appeal deadline is February 28, 2023)

Cost-sharing agreement to upgrade RR33 / Hwy 1 Interchange

In December 2020, based on a request from Harmony’s and Bingham Crossing’s developers for financial assistance to upgrade the RR33/Hwy 1 interchange, the previous council directed Administration to negotiate a cost-sharing agreement with those developers and Alberta Transportation (AT) for the interchange upgrades.

The initial funding proposal was for a $40 million upgrade shared 20% by Rocky View, 40% by Harmony’s and Bingham’s developers and 40% by AT. Recently, however, AT indicated that the upgrade is not on their priority list. To advance the project, Council approved a scaled-back $24 million agreement with Harmony’s and Bingham’s developers.

It isn’t clear why this upgrade is not being fully paid for by the developers since it is their developments that triggered the need for the upgrade. It is also not clear how this scaled-back agreement will effectively upgrade the interchange.

Terms of reference for revising the County Plan

Council approved terms of reference for revising the County Plan. Under the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board’s Regional Growth Plan all member municipalities must ensure their municipal development plans are consistent with the Regional Growth Plan by August 2025.

The Terms of Reference include public engagement and the release of a revised draft in the 2nd – 3rd quarter of 2023, with council approval in the 3rd quarter of 2024. This timeline provides enough slack that the County should be able to meet the August 2025 deadline. We will keep you updated as more information becomes available.

Road licencing bylaw

As Council directed, after the September public hearing that had proposed significant expansion of licences of occupation for undeveloped road allowances, Administration brought back a significantly modified bylaw. The revised bylaw addressed most of the issues identified at the public hearing.

Under the revised bylaw, undeveloped road allowances can be licenced by adjacent landowners for grazing, cultivation, or to access their property via existing driveways constructed in the road allowance. The revised bylaw clarified that the licences are for non-exclusive use. However, the bylaw restricts public access to foot traffic only. According to Administration, this decision was based on the fact that expanding public access would impose much higher insurance costs on the landowner with the licence of occupation.

The bumpy road to eliminating Business – Live Work and Special Future Urban Development land use districts

There have been serious problems with the Business – Live Work (BLW) and Special Future Urban Development (S-FUD) land use districts and the Special Function Business discretionary land use since their introduction by the previous council. As a result, the current council directed Administration to prepare amendments to the County Plan and the Land Use Bylaw to eliminate all three and to explore introducing a Home-Based Business Type 3 as a replacement.

Administration presented amendments at a public hearing on January 10th. Although the proposed changes move in the right direction, there were a significant number of questions and concerns raised both by council and by residents who spoke at the public hearing. As a result, Council directed Administration to continue working on the issue. A revised version is to be brought back to the Governance Committee by the end of June before returning to Council for a second public hearing.

Feasibility study to use Harmony’s wastewater treatment plant for Cochrane & Cochrane Lakes

The existing infrastructure that pipes wastewater from Cochrane to Calgary for treatment is reaching capacity. Rocky View has an agreement with Cochrane to pipe wastewater from Cochrane Lakes into that system. Anticipated growth in both Cochrane and Rocky View’s Cochrane Lakes community require expansion of the existing infrastructure.

Harmony constructed its wastewater treatment facility based on full build-out, so has excess capacity, and is interested in options that could reduce its operating costs. As a result, Cochrane, Calgary, Rocky View, and Harmony will investigate the feasibility of using some of Harmony’s excess capacity to delay the need to expand the infrastructure from Cochrane to Calgary, which will be a costly capital project.

This appears to be a win-win possibility for intermunicipal and private sector co-operation. Our concern is with the need to ensure that Harmony’s developers remain responsible for the cost of wastewater treatment for its community – a key obligation from the original approvals for that community.

Approval of Waste Collection Bylaw

Currently the County only provides curbside garbage collection in Langdon. Their residents pay for this service through specific charges from the County. The new waste collection bylaw replaces the Langdon-specific bylaw with a generic bylaw that provides for curbside collection in “designated communities”. The bylaw designates Harmony, and Pinebrook as well as Langdon as communities to receive curbside collection.

In response to questions from council, Administration indicated that they are currently negotiating with Harmony’s HOA to determine how to transfer its curbside garbage collection services to the County. In response to other questions, staff acknowledged that current garbage collection rates do not cover 100% of the County’s costs for providing these services. They indicated that proposals for rate structure modifications will be coming to council this spring as part of the Master Rates Bylaw discussion.

From our perspective, if the County is going to provide community-specific services, the benefiting residents need to pay the full costs of those services, especially when the service could otherwise be provided by the residents’ home owners association.

Bragg Creek’s craft brewery complex gets go ahead

Council approved the development permit that permits “The Laskin”, formerly called the Bragg Creek Brewery, to move ahead. As well as the craft brewery, the complex will include a restaurant and taproom, a coffee roastery, and a 21-room boutique hotel. The complex should add attractive amenities for both the residents and the many recreational users who flock to the greater Bragg Creek area.

Council shifts from a voters’ list to improving voter identification requirements

Many of us have lobbied for a long time for a municipal voters’ list. However, when Administration undertook a comprehensive analysis, they uncovered a previously overlooked but critical provision in the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA). Specifically, when an Alberta municipality opts to use a voters’ list, if a voter’s name is on the list, it is legally impossible to require voters to provide identification to establish they are who they say they are or for election officials or scrutineers to object to their voting.

Unfortunately, we had never put these pieces together. The idea that anyone could walk into a polling station and claim to be someone on the voters’ list and cast a vote without any proof that they are that individual is unbelievable. Compound this with the fact that no one can object to someone who does that is inconceivable. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the LAEA permits.

Faced with these legal constraints, council decided to work within the LAEA’s provisions to reduce risks of voter fraud. The LAEA establishes minimum standards for voter identification but permits municipalities to establish stricter requirements. Council directed Administration to prepare a bylaw that will require government-issued identification to establish a voter’s age in addition to identification to establish name and address.

The new voter identification bylaw is to return to council before the end of the year – more than enough time to have the improvements in place for the October 2025 municipal election.

Springbank Event Centre gets preliminary green light

In 2019, Council set aside the $10 million it received as SR1-related compensation for recreation in Springbank. While the Recreation Master Plan identified a multi-use community facility in Springbank as its second highest priority, the Needs Assessment indicated that significantly more area residents placed higher priority on improved trails and pathways and other outdoor recreation amenities.

Council established an advisory group to develop a business case for a multi-use facility in South Springbank. The business case was presented at the February 1st Recreation Governance Committee meeting and recommended moving forward with an event centre as phase one, an indoor soccer facility as phase two, and an outdoor park as phase three. The price tag for the event centre is estimated at just under $8 million, plus servicing and land prep costs that could be as much as another $8 million. The business case anticipated peak usage of 22% for the event centre itself, 10% for the studio, and 6% for the multi-purpose rooms.

Since no public engagement has been undertaken on this project since the 2020 Needs Assessment, we hope the County confirms this is how Springbank residents want the SR1 money spent before the project proceeds further.

Langdon Field House also gets preliminary green light

A recreation facility in Langdon was the top priority identified in the Recreation Master Plan. As a result, council established another advisory group to develop its business case, which was also presented at the Feb. 1st Recreation Governance Committee. This business case recommended a mixed-use facility with a 24,000 sq.ft. hard-surfaced “field house” for multiple sports, a hall with seating for 200, multipurpose rooms, studios, a seniors activity space, and a permanent location for Langdon’s library. The estimated cost is just under $33 million.

Anticipated peak hour utilization for the Langdon facility is higher overall than for the Springbank facility, which probably reflects the fact that there are fewer options within easy commuting distance in Langdon. The business case provided no information on funding sources for the facility.

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