February Bearspaw Beat - Municipal Planning Commission (MPC)
Over the past few months, I’ve discussed the creation of the Recreational Governance Board, a revamp of the first reading process, a total rewrite of the Municipal Development Plan and revisions to the Land Use Bylaw and Bearspaw Area Structure Plan and other area structure plans. This month I’d like to inform you of another change – the creation of the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC).
Under the Municipal Government Act, an MPC can be either advisory or a decision-making development authority. Council opted for the latter. Later this month, MPC will become the Development Authority for all development permit applications and the Subdivision Authority for all subdivision applications.
Currently, RVC’s development authority is split between Administration, Council and the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB). Straight-forward development applications are evaluated by Administration and are basically rubber stamped. If a development application does not follow the rules or falls outside of the allowable variances, it comes to Council or the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) for a decision. Subdivision applications are dealt with by the Subdivision Authority, which meets as part of regular council meetings.
In the beginning, all applications will be sent to MPC for a decision and the Board will meet once a month. By summer, the process will be re-evaluated to determine which applications should be returned to Administration for processing and meetings will move to bi-weekly sessions.
Creating an MPC also required amending the Land Use Bylaw to remove the variance restrictions to give the commission more flexibility. Council also voted to remove the variance restrictions on setbacks and the size of accessory buildings in Direct Control districts.
While one could argue removing variance restrictions reduces a resident’s certainty about what to expect, removing the variances should also reduce appeals. Currently, Admin must refuse any application outside of the specified variances; the MPC will be able to consider these applications on their own merits. Another positive about having an MPC is that it removes potentially politically sensitive issues from Administration and places them, where they belong, in the public domain.
The Municipal Government Act allows for an MPC to include both councillors and members-at-large. On January 14th, Council decided to go with councillors only, at least for the first few months. The issue of remuneration was also raised. Some of us stated we would not support additional payment for a role that is a fundamental component of being a councillor, others disagreed. Council is committed to reviewing these matters prior to the next organizational meeting in October. I will keep you apprised as more unfolds.