While I typically report on topics like the one below in my bi-weekly email update, the fact that the Bearspaw ASP and County Plan are coming for review, I felt it important to share the information here.
Despite overwhelming resident opposition, Bearspaw’s Indigo Hills was approved. The application was to create 55 two-acre parcels on the quarter section at the SE corner of TWP Rd 262 and Lochend Rd.
Redesignation determines whether the land is suitable for the proposed land-use, in this case two acre lots. Under the Bearspaw Area Structure Plan, applications of this magnitude require a concept scheme. A concept scheme requires more detailed technical studies, such as a stormwater management plan and a traffic impact assessment, to determine if the land is suitable for the proposed use.
The application received over 50 letters of opposition from surrounding landowners and two letters of support. Numerous residents spoke in opposition at the public hearing; only one in support. The most serious concern raised by neighbouring residents dealt with the proposed stormwater solution. Other concerns focused on traffic, the potential for groundwater contamination, and the impact to wildlife (the area provides heavily treed moose habitat).
One of the key components of a concept scheme is consultation with affected residents. Public engagement, in my opinion, isn’t telling someone what you’re going to do, it’s listening to their feedback and attempting to address concerns raised.
While Indigo Hills technically satisfied requirements, when an application receives such overwhelming opposition, it should not be disregarded. I truly believe that, as a Councillor, my first priority is the residents. Because of that, I recommended the application be refused. My motion was defeated 5-4 with support from Councillors Hanson, Henn and Kissel.
Many of my colleagues argued that the residents’ concerns were irrelevant at this stage and could be addressed at the subdivision stage. Subdivision is when Administration brings forward recommended conditions to ensure that the proposed development will be technically viable. Here’s the catch, without permission of Council, residents are not permitted to speak to a subdivision application. When anyone does speak, it is the applicant, typically looking to have some of the conditions relaxed or waived by Council.
If that isn’t bad enough, the conditions mandated at the subdivision stage can be appealed to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board.
In my opinion, this is a flawed process – the concept scheme requires substantial technical support for the application, yet Council can push off considering this critical information during the public hearing process. I am hopeful that with the upcoming review of the County Plan and the Bearspaw ASP that this will be addressed. More so, I am hopeful that you will all participate in the review process.