There's always lots going on in Rocky View County. Here are some issues that affect us all.
Rocky View Narrowly Confirms Appointment of CAO
A clearly divided Council formally approved Al Hoggan as the County’s new Chief Administrative Officer at its December 11th meeting. The appointment was supported by Reeve Boehlke, Deputy Reeve Schule and Councillors Kamachi, McKylor, and Henn. It was opposed by Councillors Hanson, Gautreau, Wright, and Kissel.
Rocky View Forward uncovered troubling information about Hoggan’s tenure as Kneehill County’s CAO in late November – click here for details. Briefly, over 20% of Kneehill’s residents asked the Province to investigate questionable decisions in their County. The Province is currently in the early stages of its investigation. The decisions in question all occurred while Hoggan was Kneehill’s CAO.
It has become clear that at least some of Rocky View’s councillors had not been aware of this information when the preliminary hiring decision was made. This is in spite of the fact that the concerns and petition by Kneehill residents surfaced in late summer, before Rocky View councillors made their preliminary hiring decision. Whoever in Rocky View was responsible for background checks clearly dropped the ball and Hoggan also must not have disclosed this relevant information.
At the December 11th council meeting, Councillor Hanson asked that the decision be deferred until the controversy in Kneehill was resolved. The serious split on Council became immediately evident when Hanson's tabling motion was defeated in a 5 – 4 vote with Boehlke, Schule, Kamachi, McKylor, and Henn voting to forge ahead. Hanson, Gautreau, Wright, and Kissel supported the tabling motion, wanting to push the “pause” button to ensure the County had done its due diligence before finalizing the appointment decision.
Information that came out during the December 11th council meeting made it clear just how off-the-rails this hiring process was. Over one weekend in October, Reeve Boehlke took it upon himself to sign an offer of employment and an employment contract with Mr. Hoggan – both documents having been provided by Hoggan and not reviewed by any other RV councillor or by RV’s employment lawyers or the recruitment firm being used in the hiring process. Although the MGA clearly states that there must be a resolution of Council to hire a CAO, these documents failed to include any provision making them contingent on Council approval. All this occurred after councillors had conducted only one interview with prospective candidates, even though some councillors had argued for the importance of a second interview.
Despite these apparent flaws in the hiring process, the five councillors supporting Hoggan’s appointment as CAO confidently asserted that there had been no departures from standard procedures in the hiring process. This assertion was contradicted by the interim CAO, Rick McDonald, in response to questions from Councillor Henn.
We have prepared a transcript of the Council debate, which can be accessed here. If you’d rather listen for yourself, RVC’s audio is here, start at 1:44. For more background information, the emails we have sent out on this issue can be accessed here.
Springbank Area Structure Plans Review
Administration provided an update on the Springbank ASP review to Council’s Policy & Priorities Committee on December 4, 2018. A copy of the staff report and presentation are here. We have prepared an overview of the PPC presentation, including highlights from the councillors’ questions/comments – available here. The full audio transcript from the PPC meeting is available here.
The key take-aways from the PPC presentation are:
The draft land use scenario is largely based on the high-density option presented during consultations, plus the addition of over 6,000 acres on the west side of the ASP – even though 45% of the feedback from the consultations favoured the low-density option and 40% favoured the high-density option.
Cluster residential development at 1 upa replaces half the country residential development.
Commercial/industrial land use has increased.
Population impact is downplayed by transferring the land on the east side of the ASP that borders Calgary into a “future policy area”.
The timelines for the Springbank ASP are:
Servicing and transportation technical studies to be completed in early 2019; to be followed by public input;
First draft of revised ASP to be released in spring 2019;
Public hearing on ASP anticipated for fall 2019.
Off-site Levy Bylaws – Coming to Council Soon
The County released proposed revisions to its off-site levy bylaws – transportation, water/waste water, and storm water – and public consultations on the proposed changes were to have ended October 3rd. The County then extended the consultation period until October 12th because of its inability to release corrected financial information for the proposed water/waste water off-site levy on a timely basis. The deadline for comments was extended until November 14th because of further delays. As well as finally releasing the corrected financial information on November 6th, the County is now proposing to provide concessions to the aggregate industry for its transportation off-site levy obligations.
The draft bylaws had been tentatively scheduled for Council's December 11th meeting. They have been deferred, with no specific replacement date announced. Rocky View Forward has recommended that the County reconsider its earlier decision to not hold a public hearing(s) for the bylaws since they risk failing to meet statutory obligations to consult in good faith with all stakeholders before approving new off-site levies.
Rocky View Forward participated in the consultations and prepared two submissions. Our October 3rd submission can be found here. Our second submission can be found here. Our earlier assessment that includes detailed descriptions of the proposed off-site levies can be found here.
The quick summary of our position on the proposed off-site levies is that:
There are serious doubts whether they meet the legal requirement to be “clear and reasonable” because of what we see as flaws in the underlying assumptions used to determine the levies. To highlight a few:
The levies assume that all approved ASPs and conceptual schemes will be fully built out – a planning time horizon of 75 – 100+ years. The ability to forecast accurately over such a long time has to be questionable.
This assumption is inconsistent with information from the County’s planning staff (e.g. 2016 residential land inventory report).
The levies must provide a correlation between the levies paid and the benefits received by those paying the levies. With the levies incorporating costs for infrastructure that may not be built for 75 – 100+ years, it is difficult to identify a meaningful relationship between the levies paid now and infrastructure that will be built so far into the future.
The province requires municipalities to consult in good faith with all stakeholders on their off-site levies. It is not clear that the County’s cursory consultations meet these statutory obligations.
The proposed bylaws will give Council complete discretion to reduce or waive levies. This should be unacceptable. There should be a level playing field with levy rates the same for everyone. Having friends on Council and/or a good sob story should not result in lower levy charges.
The proposed bylaws and supporting studies can be found on the County’s website under Building & Planning/Plans Under Review/Bylaws Under Review:
Voters’ List for Rocky View
In February 2018, the new Council approved moving ahead with a municipal voters’ list. On the urging of Administration, they agreed to delay the start of the process until October 2019. This will still give the County lots of time to have a voters’ list ready for the next municipal elections in the fall of 2021.
The delay was suggested by Administration to allow for the possibility that the Province might make changes to the Local Authorities Elections Act to facilitate the creation of municipal voters’ lists (see above).
We will be keeping watch on developments in this area as well as on the related need to revise the County’s electoral divisions to rebalance their population numbers. This initiative had been postponed prior to the 2107 election, at least in part because of our lobbying that emphasized the importance of public consultations prior to any redistribution.
Provincial Review of the Local Authorities Elections Act
The Province has released information on proposed changes to the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA) – the legislation governing how municipal elections are run. They are seeking public input until July 31, 2018. The issues that the Province has identified are all important for improving municipal elections. Here are the links to the Province’s consultation material:
However, the provincial material does not include any changes that would facilitate the creation of municipal voters’ lists or that would clarify the role of scrutineers (something that the 2017 Rocky View election clearly demonstrated are needed).
We encourage as many people as possible to submit their views on these important issues before the end of the month. A draft of the submission that Rocky View Forward will be submitting is here. (We will post the final version as soon as it is completed; but wanted to give people more time before the July 31st deadline.) Please feel free to cherry-pick ideas, etc. from this for your own submission.