Damkar Lands defeated, Gateway development/Elbow View ASP approved, Blazer/Horse Creek systems
DAMKAR LANDS APPLICATION DEFEATED 7-2
On May 18th, the application to create 350 units on 120 acres at the NE corner of the Watermark development was defeated 7-2.
In 2014, the lands were approved for 57 villa-style senior residences. Originally, the applicant sought to create a 500-unit development in four 4-5 storey buildings. Based on feedback, the applicant reduced the number to 350 units in 2-4 storey buildings.
The application was met with an overwhelming 118 letters of objection and one letter of support. Concerns included overall density, lack of transition, traffic, water and wastewater servicing, and emergency servicing. The applicant argued that density should be considered over the entire Watermark community’s land area and not just the 12-acres the proposal encompassed. This approach would only increase overall density from 1.95 to 2.9 units per acre. Residents argued that it was really a 28 unit per acre (upa) proposal and should be considered as such.
The city had objections, as did Alberta Transportation, who noted that the intersection at 12 Mile Coulee Rd and Hwy 1A would have to be upgraded before any development began. However, the applicant only referred to upgrading signalization along 12 Mile Coulee and argued the matter should be dealt with at the subdivision stage.
Based on the densities and the objections noted above, I moved to refuse the application. This is not what the community bought into. It is not transitional and it is entirely out of scale with what currently exists. The Bearspaw Area Structure plan permits 4-acre lots and speaks to reduced parcel sizes supported by a concept scheme. I cannot believe that the Bearspaw ASP intended concept schemes to facilitate a departure from 0.25 upa to 28 upa. My motion was supported 7-2 with Councillors Gautreau and Kamachi in opposition.
GATEWAY DEVELOPMENT IN BRAGG CREEK APPROVED
On May 4th, Council unanimously approved the Gateway project in Bragg Creek. A number of years ago a revitalization plan was approved for Bragg Creek to develop the community into a sustainable and inviting place for residents and visitors. The plan was created through extensive community input and, in my opinion, this application met its objectives and will do precisely what the plan envisions.
The Gateway project will include various uses: a hotel/conference centre, mixed use commercial/residential, multi-family residential, amphitheatre and the reopening of the Steak Pit restaurant. The 12-acre parcel involved the amalgamation of 6 parcels and required two road closures.
The applicant noted that this was his vision since 2005, however, servicing was a hurdle and then came the 2013 flood. With the implementation of the Bragg Creek Water / Wastewater treatment plant the project can be easily serviced. It will also be a much welcome user as the utility is underutilized.
Residents raised concerns about traffic and the building height. Traffic should be addressed through Alberta Transportation’s to upgrade Bragg Creek’s main intersection to deal with general traffic issues in the community. In response to the concerns about height, the applicant voluntarily reduced the maximum height from 18m to 14m. When I asked about potential flooding concerns, the applicant noted that the only construction below the 2013 flood level was the hotel / conference centre’s underground parking that could easily be pumped should a flood occur.
ELBOW VIEW ASP APPROVED 6-3
The developer-led Elbow View ASP located immediately adjacent to Elbow Valley West was approved 6-3. Councillor Hanson, Kissel and I were opposed.
Administration stated that the application aligned well with the new proposed Municipal Development Plan (MDP) (currently awaiting CMRB approval), the 2060 Growth Strategy (a document never adopted by any Council but replaced by the County Plan), and that the proposal supported the County’s commercial / residential tax split (18,000 residents with a main street style Village Core).
Administration claimed that the application fit within the County Plan’s hamlet provisions. However, the applicant indicated that the ASP was for a compact cluster community. Furthermore, the County Plan sees hamlets as stand-alone communities of up to 10,000. The proposed Elbow View ASP is contiguous with the existing Elbow Valley community and proposes a population of 18,000 (3/4 of the entire County’s anticipated growth over the next 30 years).
The applicant noted that they have water licenses to service 550 acres of the 2,200 acres. Since no new licenses are being granted, I asked how they would secure water to service the remaining area. Council was advised that this was a matter for the local plan stage (next stage) but that the applicant had connections through the Alberta Water Exchange that could facilitate it. In my opinion, proof of water availability should be established at this time, not later.
The applicant provided three options for wastewater servicing – an on-site treatment facility, tying into the Harmony system, or tying into the City of Calgary’s Bonnybrook plant. They stated that the latter would be the preferred option, although they recognized that it might not be workable.
The City of Calgary submitted a 9-page letter of concern focused primarily on transportation, servicing (water and wastewater) and stormwater. As well as their standard options to approve or refuse the application, Administration provided an option to hold the application at second reading pending the CMRB’s approval of the new Municipal Development Plan. The majority chose neither, instead opting to give the application seconding reading and send it to the CMRB for its approval.
COUNTY PURCHASES BLAZER WATER SYSTEM AND HORSE CREEK WATER/WASTEWATER SYSTEM
On May 11th, Council directed Administration to purchase the Blazer and Horse Creek systems. The price tag for Blazer, which provides water to the Watermark, Bearspaw Village, Blazer and Blueridge communities, is $9 million. Horse Creek, which provides water and wastewater servicing to the Cochrane Lakes area, will cost $13 million ($10.5 million of which will be fronted by the County – the remaining $2.5 million by local developers). Administration noted that both systems would require financial assistance over the next 3 years - $1.6 million for Blazer and $1.7 million for Horse Creek.
With Blazer, the County is exercising its right of first refusal as interest to purchase had been expressed by another party. Administration stated that the Blazer system could break even in as little as 5 years. Their projections anticipate a 17% growth or approximately 108 new users per year. When I asked where this growth was going to come from, given that Watermark typically builds 30 units per year, staff said that there were other water co-ops that were considering joining. However, when I asked how many new users they would bring, it was stated that it was unknown at that point as those talks were still in the preliminary stages.
Even if one was to assume that both Ascension and Damkar were approved, the chances of them building out this quickly is highly unlikely. Furthermore, the entire County typically builds 200 new houses per year. To sustain Administration’s anticipated growth numbers, 50% of that growth would have to be in south Bearspaw. As such, I could not support the proposal as submitted. In a 8-1 decision, with me as the lone objector, the motion to purchase Blazer was approved.
The Horse Creek situation was somewhat different. In what started as the County facilitating two developers negotiate the purchase for themselves, the final result was that the County will now own and operate the utility. As noted above, the County will front the $10.5 million of the debt, with $6 million being repaid by local developers over a maximum of 25 years.
Administration noted that the Horse Creek system could break even in 5 years. However, this anticipated 47% annual growth in the customer base. While I recognize that this is unrealistic, there is an ability to tie-in the hamlet of Cochrane Lakes and Monterra’s phase II is also starting to build out. Two other communities in Cochrane Lakes North are also approved in the area, though as of writing no construction has commenced on those developments.
I supported the purchase of the Horse Creek system because it has had ongoing issues for years and there was no other interested party. As well, the developers’ commitment to pay for 75% of the financial obligation significantly reduced the final cost for the County.
UPDATE FROM THE CALGARY GROWTH MANAGEMENT BOARD (CMRB)
On May 17th, the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board and its consultant HDR Calthorpe gave a presentation to Council on the final draft of its Regional Growth and Servicing Plans that are to be presented to the Minister of Municipal Affairs for approval on June 1st. Councillor Kissel was absent.
Throughout the public engagement process, the consultant had presented three different growth scenarios. In the end, they presented what they referred to as a “synthesis” scenario, which in their opinion best captured the middle ground. They also noted that in response to the County’s requests, Bragg Creek was added as a hamlet growth area and lands surrounding the Springbank Airport was noted as an employment area (details to be determined later).
There is no doubt that the majority on Council have major concerns with the CMRB, with the plan being referred to at one point by Councillor Boehlke as “useless”. Many of Council’s questions involved concerns around annexation. In my opinion, annexation should be of less concern under the Regional Plan since it will require the urban municipalities to increase densities – in essence in-filling and building up, not out. In earlier stages, concern was raised about a lack of appeal mechanism. This was addressed. Mediation will be available for disagreements with a CMRB decision and if that fails decisions can be appealed at the Land and Property Rights Tribunal (previously known as the Municipal Government Board).
After an in-camera session, Councillor Boehlke moved to direct Reeve Henn to vote against the adoption of the plan citing that the plan was unfair to rural municipalities by favouring growth in the urban areas. The motion was approved 6-2 with Councillor Hanson and I in opposition.
While the plan is by no means perfect, I don’t believe it is entirely negative. Collaboration is key to avoiding duplication and to building strong communities. While some argue that the County is hamstrung and unable to do any future development, I do not believe this is true. The CMRB’s plan does inhibit a dartboard approach to developing anything anywhere. There is nothing stopping Rocky View from bringing forward new potential developments; however, they would require sound planning rationale to be approved. As well, the Regional Growth Plan expects 20% of new growth to be located in Joint Planning Areas that include Rocky View’s East & West Balzac, Conrich, and Omni ASPs. And, all Rocky View’s existing ASP’s are grandfathered, which means development can continue in those areas.
UPDATE: On May 25th, Reeve Henn announced that the majority on the CMRB had voted to send the Regional Growth and Servicing Plans to the Minister for approval. The vote was 7-3 with rural municipalities Foothills and Wheatland County joining Rocky View in our opposition.
COACH CREEK CONCEPT SCHEME APPLICANT ASKS FOR COUNCIL RECONSIDERATION
If you recall, Coach Creek’s original application was approved on April 13th in a 6-3 decision with all but Councillors Hanson, Kissel and me in support. Administration had proposed possible amendments that they felt would help secure the City’s support at the CMRB; however, the council majority refused to consider them citing that Calgary already had ample opportunity to weigh in.
Subsequently, the applicant requested that Council reconsider its decision since they felt that those amendments would improve the application’s chances of success at the CMRB. As a result, on May 25th, Council voted to reconsider Administration’s amendment. The amendment was to add a provision to the concept scheme that will review the impacts to Calgary’s infrastructure and services and if material impacts were found then cost-sharing or alternative appropriate mechanisms would be put in place.
Since, I would have had no problem hearing Administration’s amendments back in April, I had no problem supporting the amendment. While I question the process of allowing the applicant to reopen Council’s decision, no one had asked for the applicant’s input before Council’s original decision. If anything, this episode highlights the flaws in proposing last minute amendments during a public hearing.
COUNTY PEACE OFFICERS TO PATROL PROVINCIAL HIGHWAYS
You may not be aware that until recently, County Peace Officers had no jurisdiction on Provincial roads. There have been a number of changes (downloading) in Provincial policing regulations of late and this is one of those initiatives that the Provincial government is hoping provides more seamless and effective enforcement servicing.
With endorsement from Council and approval from Alberta’s Justice and Solicitor General, under their new scope, County Peace officers can now deal with speeding, distracted driving, running stop signs and other Traffic Safety Act violations on any primary highway.