Road ban exemption, Hwy 8 TORs approved, Code of Conduct and MPC amended
+ APPLICATION FOR BUSINESS INDUSTRIAL CAMPUS APPROVED IN DIVISION 4
· APPLICATION FOR BUDDHIST TEMPLE IN DIVISION 5 APPROVED
· AMENDMENT TO DC BYLAW 96 APPROVED
· NOSE CREEK WATERSHED MODEL PROJECT GRANT APPROVED
· ROAD BAN EXEMPTION FOR AGRICULTURE
· BUILDING SERVICES YEAR END REPORT
· INTER-DEVELOPMENT PLAN WITH MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY HALTED
· INTER-COLLABORATIVE FRAMEWORK WITH BIGHORN COUNTY APPROVED
· CO-OPERATIVE STORMWATER MANAGEMENT INITIATIVE (CSMI) UPDATE
· HIGHWAY 8 AREA STRUCTURE PLAN TERMS OF REFERENCE APPROVED
· AMENDMENTS TO COUNTY PLAN FOR DEVELOPER-LED AREA STRUCTURE PLANS
· MEMBERSHIP CHANGE TO SUBDIVISION AND DEVELOPMENT APPEAL BOARD
· COUNCIL CODE OF CONDUCT AMENDMENTS
· MUNICIPAL PLANNING COMMISSION MEMBERSHIP AMENDED
APPLICATION FOR BUSINESS INDUSTRIAL CAMPUS APPROVED IN DIVISION 4
An application to redesignate a 4.17-acre parcel from Agricultural Holdings to Business-Industrial Campus in Division 4 was approved unanimously. Administration recommended approval.
A Home-Based Business Type II for a stucco construction company has operated on the property since 2012. However, due to expansion of the business, it had outgrown the constraints of home-based businesses. Changing the land use to Business-Industrial Campus District, allows the business increase to six non-resident employees, a larger shop and an advertising sign. The subject land is surrounded by several industrial parcels and the proposal was supported by the neighbours.
APPLICATION FOR BUDDHIST TEMPLE IN DIVISION 5 APPROVED
An application to redesignate Farmland to Public Service lot to facilitate a Buddhist temple was approved 8-1 with Deputy Reeve Al Schule in opposition. Administration recommended refusal because the property did not meet policy for parking or stormwater management.
More than two-thirds of the site will be impacted by future Highway intersection improvements on Highway 560 and Highway 791. Given that the applicants recognized that the highway expansion is inevitable and there were no plans to expand the facility beyond what currently exists on the property, the application was approved.
AMENDMENT TO DC BYLAW 96 APPROVED
An application to reduce the minimum side yard setback requirements for parking, storage, and display products at the Shell Station Storage facility at Hwy 567/22 was approved unanimously. Administration recommended approval.
The mini-storage operation involves the use of seacans which can be relocated, as such, Alberta Transportation had no issues with the relaxation. However, it was noted that should Highway 22 be expanded, the applicant may have to relocate the storage facility at a future date.
NOSE CREEK WATERSHED MODEL PROJECT GRANT FUNDING APPROVED
Council received a presentation from the Nose Creek Watershed Partnership. The Nose Creek Watershed Water Management Plan is developing a hydrologic/hydraulic and water quality model at the watershed-scale. The group is looking to fund the project predominantly through the Alberta Community Partnership Intermunicipal Collaboration Grant. As part of the funding application, all members must pass motions supporting the project.
One membership municipality must act as the managing partner each year and may thereby apply for funding under the grant. The Town of Crossfield agreed to lead the application, allowing other municipalities to submit applications for the funding of other projects in 2020 if needed. Council voted unanimously to support the motion.
ROAD BAN EXEMPTION FOR AGRICULTURE
Due to an early snowfall last fall, approximately 7% of the fields in Rocky View County remain unharvested with Alberta Agriculture estimating losses totalling up to $700 million province wide. As such, the County is seeking to assist agricultural producers by allowing them to haul their commodities during the spring road ban season.
This road ban exemption would allow hauling from 2019 unharvested fields, on any roadway under the authority of Rocky View County. This exemption allows the spring road ban to be increased to 100% of Alberta allowable seasonal axle weights. Council unanimously approved the request.
BUILDING SERVICES YEAR END REPORT
Building Services issued 980 building permits in 2019 with a construction value of $279,055,208. These numbers are considerably lower than 2018, which saw 1,056 building permits issued with a value of $412,411,486.
Administration attributed the drop in commercial construction primarily to the large-scale Amazon facility that was approved in 2018. A few of the larger projects noted from 2019 were the Tim Horton’s Distribution center, Tri-line Carriers Warehouse and office, Center Street Church, and Leon’s retail store and Warehouse.
It was also noted that while the processing of commercial applications had decreased from 16 days to 11 days, residential applications saw an increase in processing time from 8 days to 10 days.
Of the 194 permits issued for new residential dwellings, 18% of them were in Springbank –namely Harmony. Interestingly, Division 8 (Bearspaw) ranked third for residential growth with 13%, only 1% lower than Division 4 (Langdon). The number of residential permits issued in 2019 (194) was almost 100 less than the 291 issued in 2018. In my opinion, statistics like these make it all the more difficult to justify the continued introduction and approval of new area structure plans.
CO-OPERATIVE STORMWATER MANAGEMENT INITIATIVE (CSMI) UPDATE
Rocky View County has been a member of the Cooperative Stormwater Management Initiative (CSMI) since its inception in 2012. CSMI is working on a stormwater system to address regional flooding concerns and manage environmental impacts caused by stormwater in east Rocky View and surrounding areas. Three critical agreements are required to operate the partnership: a user agreement outlining each member’s rights and obligations for use of the stormwater system; a development agreement outlining the stormwater system’s design and construction, as well as funding obligations for each member; and a management agreement outlining how the stormwater system will be maintained.
CSMI’s membership is currently reviewing the terms and a presentation to Council is planned for this June. Once these agreements are ratified, CSMI intends to use Provincial grant funding for Phase I which they hope to start this Fall.
HIGHWAY 8 AREA STRUCTURE PLAN TERMS OF REFERENCE APPROVED
In response to a motion from Councillor Gautreau and Deputy Reeve Schule, Administration brought forward terms of reference for a Highway 8 Area Structure Plan. The H8-ASP includes 4,196 acres west of the city along Highway 8.
Administration presented two sets of terms of reference. After working with the area’s developers, Administration prepared one set for a developer-paid, County-led process to create the new ASP. However, the developer group preferred its own developer-led terms of reference that have different timelines and deliverables. Administration’s report recommended adopting its own terms of reference.
I felt the developer-led terms lacked important detail. I asked who the developer-led group was and was told it was 4 landowners, but not their identities. Other area landowners had expressed interest in the process; but when I asked whether they would be included, it was stated they could, yet no details were given as to how these opportunities would be provided.
Furthermore, the developer-led terms were very high level and did not provide comparable commitments to important technical studies as were included in the county-led terms. When I asked how the developer would deal with inter-municipal matters, Administration indicated there would be a County task force that would be dealt with as a charge back to the developer. I remained concerned since this was not part of the developer-led terms of reference.
When Councillor Hanson asked for clarification of the benefit of the developer-led plan vs the County-led plan, Councillor Gautreau promptly made the motion to adopt the developer-led terms of reference. Gautreau then went on to state that this was a benefit as the developer-led ASP would not be paid by the taxpayer. Reeve Boehlke felt it would cut red-tape. Councillor Schule felt the developer-led process was like having a steering committee decide on matters as it involved the landowners/developers of the area.
Councillor Hanson challenged these assertions since they were reasons for a developer-paid ASP and asked for reasons why it should be developer-led rather than only developer-paid, with the County maintaining control of the process. Schule said he believed landowners were heard better this way. Councillor Henn stated that it was like buying a car – the landowner is the maker of the car while the developer is the buyer of the car and the county gets in the middle to facilitate the deal. This explanation left me more confused as did answers to my further questions.
Reeve Boehlke then closed all debate and called the vote. Nothing in the discussion provided me with information or comfort on the details I saw as lacking in the developer-led terms of reference and, because I felt the process was rushed, I voted against the motion. The motion passed 6-3 with Councillors Hanson, Kissel and me in opposition.
AMENDMENTS TO COUNTY PLAN FOR DEVELOPER-LED AREA STRUCTURE PLANS
At the January 14th Council meeting, a Notice of Motion was introduced to prepare amendments to the County Plan to allow a development proponent to prepare a new area structure plan (ASP) or ASP amendment. As Councillor Kissel noted, this should have been brought forward before the Hwy 8 ASP terms of reference were adopted.
Councillor Gautreau moved to have the amendments made to both the County Plan and to have the amendments included in the Municipal Development Plan review. The motion was supported 6-3 with Councillor Hanson, Reeve Boehlke and me in opposition. As Reeve Boehlke stated, the County Plan amendments are coming to council in the next couple of months, this was not the time to be making these types of changes.
COUNCIL CODE OF CONDUCT AMENDMENTS
Administration recommended three sets of amendments to the Council Code of Conduct. While some of the amendments were included in the agenda package, Administration handed out a revised version at the beginning of the discussion. This meant we did not have time to review the new changes. As such, Councillor Hanson brought forward a motion to table the proposed amendments. His request failed 6-3 with only Councillor Kissel and me in support.
The three key changes are:
1. All complaints will now go to Council for an initial review and only be passed on to the independent investigator if the majority on Council decides the complaint warrants further investigation;
2. Complaints from the public have been separated from complaints from other councillors; and
3. New processes have been added for complaints that involve both the Reeve and Deputy Reeve.
According to Administration, there had been four complaints from Council and four from residents totalling $15,000 in legal fees and these fees were the key reason for the changes. Councillor Kissel questioned these numbers, saying from her own experience the number of complaints did not seem accurate.
I noted that many municipalities are introducing an integrity or ethics commissioner on retainer to deal with these matters as way to provide accountability and transparency, however, there was little appetite for this from my colleagues.
Kissel then raised concerns that making it more difficult for residents to file their own complaints would simply result in councillors bringing forward complaints on residents’ behalf when the councillor had not been involved in the incident generating the complaint. She stated this had already happened, albeit unsuccessfully.
Due to the last-minute changes, Councillors Kissel, Hanson and I held the motion at third reading. We needed time to review the changes. Furthermore, I believe it is wrong to have all public complaints vetted by Council for the simple reason it makes Council judge and jury over complaints made against it.
MUNICIPAL PLANNING COMMISSION MEMBERSHIP AMENDED
Quorum on the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) was established as 5 members, the same as for Council. Due to the sanctions, Councillors Hanson, Kissel and I were removed from the Municipal Planning Committee and Councillor Henn sits on the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board, and as a result, cannot sit on MPC. That meant there were only 5 councillors available to sit on the MPC. The occasion arose where MPC had not been able to sit because of a lack of quorum, so it was suggested that its quorum be reduced to 3 members.
The motion was supported 6-3 with Councillors Hanson, Kissel and me in opposition. We were removed from the Board by our colleagues and, once again, the terms of reference for an important committee have to be amended as a result – a classic example of the law of unintended consequences.