AG PARCELS IN DIVISION 3 APPROVED AFTER REFERRAL TO ADMINISTRATION
In October, Council referred an application to create two 20-acre parcels in the North-west area of Division 3 to Administration to address concerns over road access and the proposed boundary between the two parcels. Despite revisions to the application, Administration recommended refusal as the application was inconsistent with the County Plan’s new or distinct agricultural policy.
Concerns about access focused on the tributary to the Grand Valley Creek that runs through the property. As a solution, the applicant proposed sharing the existing approach through an access easement agreement – the driveway already has a culvert to accommodate the creek.
With regards to the changes to the boundary lines, the applicant adjusted the lot lines to make the boundary a more equitable split.
Administration’s key concern was that the rationale provided to divide the land – a berry farm on one parcel with a horse breeding operation on the other – could be done on one parcel. This is true, however, even after redesignation both parcels would retain an agricultural designation. Furthermore, the application followed the intent of the land use bylaw which allows for a range of mid-sized parcels for agricultural uses. Mayor Kissel’s motion to approve the application was approved unanimously.
TABLED DIVISION 4 ROAD CLOSURE APPROVED 4-3
In September, Council tabled an application for a road closure pending the outcome of the recently updated Road Licensing Bylaw. When the applicant was asked if the revised road licensing bylaw could meet his needs, he indicated it would not as a lease does not allow him to close the road. Administration recommended approval.
The road allowance abuts three properties. The intent of the application was to purchase the road allowance and consolidate it equally amongst the three landowners. The applicant cited that closing the road would help reduce trespassing and deter crime. Neighbours immediately surrounding the lands supported the road closure, however, others in the area objected stating that the road allowance provides a recreational amenity for the wider area.
As noted by Administration, the application aligned with Council policy as it proposed to close an undeveloped portion of the road allowance that is no longer required by the travelling public. The fact that Grand Valley Rd winds around immediately to the east of the parcel indicates that the road allowance may have been unsuitable to build on, and the current route was probably the better way to go. This also meant that closure of the road allowance would not remove access to any parcel in the surrounding area.
My motion to approve the application was supported 4-3 with opposition from Kissel and Councillors Kochan and Schule.
APPLICATION TO CREATE R-CRD PARCELS REFUSED IN BEARSPAW
An application to redesignate a parcel from Ag–Small to Rural–Country Residential in the agricultural area of the Bearspaw Area Structure Plan was refused unanimously. Administration recommended refusal.
While the applicant was only proposing to create 2 additional lots on the vacant parcel, the designation would allow for up to nine lots. Development Priority Area 4 of the Bearspaw Area Structure Plan doesn’t support country residential development unless there is an amendment to the ASP and a concept scheme is provided – which the applicant declined to provide.
In my opinion, this is piecemeal development. Given that Development Areas 1 through 3 have plenty of developable areas, there was no rationale to support development in Area 4 at this time.
2023 BUDGET FINALIZATION
When Council approved the 2023 Operating and Capital base budget in December, the estimated new tax revenue from growth in the assessment base from new construction was $2,200,000. Based on that, Administration recommended a 6% tax hike. Upon completion of the 2023 assessment roll, the actual new growth component was $6,885,700 – an unanticipated increase of $4,685,700 in additional tax dollars. The incremental new assessment growth resulted from higher-than-expected new construction in our commercial / industrial sectors.
As result of this additional assessment growth, Administration recommended reducing the proposed tax increase to 4%. Based on the current economic times, I asked about a potential reduction to 3%.
Administration advised that a reduction to 3% would still allow for $2,131,700 to be transferred to the Tax Stabilization Reserve. While I understand the need for reserves, especially when we consider the amount of Provincial downloading that’s occurring, $2.1 million is still a healthy amount, in my opinion.
My motion to reduce the tax rate to 3% passed 4-2 with Deputy Mayor Samra and Councillor Hanson in opposition. As Mayor Kissel stated, she couldn’t justify taking additional money from our ratepayers’ savings accounts to put in the County’s savings account without any clearly identified initiatives to spend it on.
TERMS OF REFERENCE FOR AGGREGATE RESOURCE PLAN APPROVED
In November, Council directed Administration to develop Terms of Reference (TORs) to restart work on an Aggregate Resource Plan (ARP). In March, the Governance Committee approved the following principles to guide the development of the ARP:
establishment of a stakeholder advisory committee chaired by an independent third party to provide recommendations on aggregate policies and standards;
incorporation of policies within the County’s Municipal Development Plan (the County Plan),
addressing locational criteria for aggregate extraction and compatibility with non aggregate land uses;
direction of aggregate extraction sites away from comprehensively planned country residential and hamlet areas;
strong protection of environmentally sensitive features, including groundwater resources and provincial parks;
creation of performance measures and application requirements within a non statutory planning document;
creation of general regulations and a standard aggregate land use district within the County’s Land Use Bylaw; and
establishment of an aggregate site monitoring bylaw to facilitate pro-active monitoring of permitted aggregate extraction sites.
The stakeholder advisory committee will be non-technical and will make recommendations but have no decision-making capabilities. It will be comprised of six members, plus a Chair: two County residents from country residential or hamlet communities; two County residents from the agricultural areas; and two aggregate industry representatives. As noted in my email, applications to sit on the committee are being accepted by the County until June 16th.
All committee meetings will be open to the public and live-streamed. While Administration had initially hoped for consensus-style decision-making, given the potentially contentious nature of the topic, this may not be possible. As a result, it was determined that in areas where no consensus is reached, a detailed description of the issue will be provided to council outlining the points raised.
Administration proposed an initial budget of $75,000 to cover the costs of the facilitator and to support the wider work of the Committee. Once committee work is complete, a final cost for the document’s development will be determined.
AMENDMENTS TO CIRCULATION / NOTIFICATION AREA POLICY APPROVED Based on a motion presented by Councillor Boehlke and me, the County will be reviewing policy to make sure that circulation / notification standards are uniform for all stakeholder correspondence.
Currently, circulation / notification areas vary depending on the type of application, e.g., redesignation, development permit, road allowance closure. As we noted in our motion, it is becoming increasingly evident that the current multi-tiered approach has deficiencies, and the County is failing to reach affected residents and stakeholders effectively. Our motion requested that the circulation / notification area for all applications be 1600m outside of a hamlet and 800m inside a hamlet. Administration will return to Council with a final report no later than July 30th.
TITLES OF MAYOR AND DEPUTY MAYOR NO LONGER
Based on a motion brought forward by Mayor Kissel (now Reeve Kissel), the titles of Reeve and Deputy Reeve have been reinstated for Council’s “chief elected officials”. The change to Mayor and Deputy Mayor was originally made by the previous Council assuming its request to the Province to become a specialized municipality would be accepted. It was not.
In practice, using the title of Mayor and Deputy Mayor has caused some confusion since Mayor typically refers to someone who is elected at-large and is much more common in urban settings. As a result, Council unanimously supported changing the titles back to Reeve and Deputy Reeve.
TERMS OF REFERENCE FOR CONTEXT STUDIES FOR JOINT PLANNING AREAS 1 & 2 APPROVED The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board’s Regional Growth Plan (RGP) identified Joint Planning Areas as preferred growth areas. The Plan requires the municipalities in those Areas to adopt Terms of Reference to develop Context Studies. The Context Studies will be used to guide development within the Joint Planning Areas and as input for new municipal statutory plans and amendments to the RGP. They will also be used by the CMRB to guide its decision-making.
Joint Planning Area 1 is located between Airdrie, Rocky View County, and Calgary. Joint Planning Area 2 is located between Chestermere, Rocky View County and Calgary.
There will be two trilateral committees of six Councillors from the three municipalities in each Joint Planning Area to provide direction to staff, again from each of the three municipalities, preparing the actual Context Studies. Each Study will include: a vision for the area; servicing strategies for water, wastewater and stormwater; transportation plans; plans to address environmental issues; cost-sharing for services such as police, fire and recreation; a land use plan; and development sequencing. The context studies must be completed by August 15, 2025.
BEARSPAW SUBDIVISION APPLICATION APPROVED
An application to approve a 2-acre subdivision with a 4-acre remainder in the Bunny Hollow area of Bearspaw was approved unanimously. Administration recommended approval. The redesignation application was heard last year and there had been no opposition.
BEARSPAW AREA STRUCTURE PLAN REVIEW TERMS OF REFERENCE AMENDED The original Terms of Reference (TORs) for the review of the Bearspaw Area Structure Plan (BASP) were approved in 2019. Administration undertook public engagement in June and November of that year. The BASP review was then placed on hold until the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board’s Regional Growth Plan was approved and then placed on hold again to ensure County staff had adequate resources in place (three other ASPs were being worked on at that time). Now that the CMRB’s Growth Plan is adopted and the other ASPs have advanced, Administration believes it has the resources to commence work on the technical studies and documents for the BASP starting in August.
When the BASP review was initially put on hold, it was anticipated that there would be additional engagement on further land use scenarios. However, Administration recommended moving directly to creating a draft ASP and conducting additional community engagement after its release. They based their recommendation of the fact that the community input from 2019 overwhelmingly supported preserving low-density, country residential development forms, which is consistent with the policies in the Regional Growth Plan.
The TORs were also amended to include a review of peripheral lands in the ASP. As was noted by Administration, there are vast tracts of land in Priority Areas 1-3 that are either partially or totally undeveloped. Considering the BASP encompasses a whopping 25,000 acres, it makes sense to review the appropriateness of keeping all the Priority 4 (agricultural) areas in the ASP.
Additionally, the TORs now include language around preserving natural landscape features and preventing incompatible neighbouring uses. Overall, I believe that the amendments were positive and reflective of the feedback I have received in my 5+ years on Council. To see for yourself, the updated TORs can be found here.
A fulsome community engagement process will be conducted in 2024 to receive feedback on the draft plan. Revisions, based on that feedback, will be incorporated into a final plan which will hopefully come to council before the end of 2024.