• Samanntha Wright

Ascension Given Third Reading, Summit Development permit approved, 2-acre lots approved in Bearspaw

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

· ASCENSION GIVEN THIRD READING IN A 6-3 VOTE

· SUMMIT DEVELOPMENT PERMIT APPROVED 5-3

· APPLICATIONS TO APPROVE 2-ACRE LOTS IN BEARSPAW APPROVED UNANIMOUSLY

· LATE PAYMENT TAX PENALTY WAIVER REQUESTS REFUSED

· CHANGES TO PUBLIC PARTICIPATION FOR PUBLIC HEARING


ASCENSION GIVEN THIRD READING IN A 6-3 VOTE

In my last update about the Ascension application, the County was waiting for a response from the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board. Calgary challenged the application at the CMRB, which is typically a death sentence for the application.


Two weeks ago, the County was notified that Ascension’s developer had met with Mayor Nenshi to discuss possible solutions to address Calgary’s concerns. While the CMRB encourages municipalities to work out their differences, from my perspective, this approach was problematic because Rocky View was not at the table.


After the meeting between Ascension’s developer and Nenshi, the County was presented with a memorandum of understanding from Calgary’s Mayor asking for specific concessions in exchange for which Calgary would drop its challenge at the CMRB. Council refused. Calgary then came back with a different set of changes.


On September 21st, Council adopted those amendments and the plan was approved 6-3 with Councillors Kissel, Hanson and me in opposition. Then, later last week, the CMRB approved the Ascension development. There is no doubt that collaboration is a good thing, but when a developer meets with another municipality to discuss potential solutions without including the affected municipality, how could it be construed as anything other than a side deal?


There were over 200 letters of objection from local residents at the Ascension public hearing. Where was their representation? In my opinion, this was a failure of not only due process but transparent democracy.


SUMMIT DEVELOPMENT PERMIT APPROVED

On September 14th, the development permit for the Summit pit was approved 5-3, with Councillors Hanson, Kissel and me in opposition. Councillor Kamachi was absent.


The development permit includes a good neighbour policy and Council had directed that this be brought back for its review. The policy requires that for the life of the pit, the pit operator must provide residents within 1.6km 24/7 access for complaints for the life of the pit. The policy also required Summit’s operators to assist neighbours within 800m should any groundwater wells be affected by the pit’s operations.


I made an amendment to have the 800m extended to 1600m to make it consistent with the remainder of the plan. In my opinion, it made no sense to have a hotline for issues for 1600m for some things and only 800m for dealing with potential groundwater contamination. My motion was only supported by Councillors Kissel and Hanson.


APPLICATIONS TO CREATE 2 ACRE LOTS IN BEARSPAW APPROVED

Two applications to approve two 2-acre lots in Bearspaw were approved unanimously. One was located at Burma Rd and RR 25. The other on Woodland Close. Interestingly, Administration had recommended that the former be approved but asked that the latter be tabled until a concept scheme (comprehensive development plan) for the area was done.


It didn’t make sense to have the applicant do a concept scheme when the impact to the community was so minimal. One of the parcels would keep using the panhandle access, while the other would access directly off Woodland Close. The three letters of objection focused on concerns about the removal of trees and setting precedence for smaller lots. There are already two-acre parcels within the same quarter section and the applicant was committed to preserving as many trees as possible.


With the Burma Rd application, access from RR 25 would not be possible as the driveway would need to pass through a low area that would be prone to flooding. I asked if an additional access off Burma Rd would create any safety concerns. Administration advised it would not.


LATE PAYMENT TAX PENALTY WAIVER REQUESTS REFUSED

For 2021 property taxes, the County received over 25 requests to waive late payment fees. For property taxes due in 2021, the County received over 25 requests to waive the late payment penalty fee charged on taxes paid after June 30th. Property owners gave numerous reasons for not paying their taxes – all of which, in my opinion, were valid. Many of these individuals had paid their taxes within days of the due date and indicated that they felt the 12% penalty was harsh in the circumstances. I agree.


Last year, Councillors Hanson and Kissel tried to address the structure of the late payment penalty. Although I supported their efforts, the council majority opted to maintain the existing structure – a 12% penalty for payments received after June 30th and an additional 12% for payments after December 31st – meaning if you pay your taxes on July 1st, a mere one day late, you are on the hook for the full 12% penalty.


I believe that imposing the full 12% penalty for taxes that are only a day or two late is unduly harsh, I made a motion to have the penalties reduced by 50%. My motion failed 6–3 with only Kissel and Gautreau supporting me. However, it also didn’t seem fair to pick winners and losers based on differences between the individual reasons for the late payments, I supported denying all the requests. I really hope that the new council reviews this policy. While the $1 million late fees generate each year in revenue is revenue to the County, I don’t think it is a positive source of revenue.


CHANGES TO PUBLIC PARTICIPATION RULES FOR PUBLIC HEARINGS

As I noted in my last update, the majority on Council had supported maintaining the option of audio and video presentations for public hearings, but because Gautreau refused to permit third reading at our last meeting in July, this option was not available for any of the hearings in September.However, because the changes were given third reading at our first meeting in September, Henn’s amendment to restrict group presentations to only 5 minutes did become effective.This took a number of residents by surprise when they came to speak on behalf of themselves and their neighbours.As with the late payment penalty fees, I hope the new council reconsiders this change

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