Motion to reinstate advertising in RV Weekly defeated, 2-acre parcels in bearspaw, election bylaw
NOTICE OF MOTION – TO BRING BACK ADVERTISING IN ROCKY VIEW WEEKLY
About a year ago, Council directed Administration to stop advertising in the Rocky View Weekly and shift all the County’s public notifications to its website and social media platforms. Due to complaints from residents, Councillor Hanson and I brought forward a motion to reinstate this advertising.
Rocky View Weekly is the County’s only source of local news, we don’t have radio or tv stations and other papers focus on news from our urban neighbours. The cost of the County’s newspaper advertising was approximately $70,000 per year – a small sum, in my opinion, to improve transparency and accountability to ratepayers and, like one of the goals of the Economic Recovery Task Force, would support an important local business.
As Councillor Kissel noted, many people found it easier to locate the information in the paper, it eliminated the need to search for it. Hanson reminded Council that many residents have poor internet service, therefore, relying on the website for information was not acceptable. He also stated that a paper gives a more objective view of County events than the County itself might. Furthermore, the County had not transitioned residents appropriately to inform them that the website would be the sole source of this information.
Reeve Henn stated that a number of elderly residents had complained to him about not being able to locate the information in the paper but now that they knew to search the website, they had “adapted.” He also stated that in conversations with other municipalities, three had quit newspaper advertising. Interestingly, when Councillor Hanson and I researched the motion, Airdrie, Cochrane and Calgary, along with other neighbouring municipalities, all advertise in their local paper. Our motion failed 6-3 with only Kissel supporting us.
TWO APPLICATIONS TO CREATE 2-ACRE PARCELS APPROVED IN BEARSPAW
An application to create two 2-acre lots at Burma Road and Range Road 25 was approved unanimously at the November 12th meeting. Another application to create two 2.14-acre parcels on Biggar Heights Bay was also approved unanimously at the November 24th meeting.
Administration had recommended approval for both applications.
REQUESTS TO WAIVE LATE TAX PENALTIES
After dealing with five requests to waive the late payment penalty on property tax payments at the October 27th council meeting, there were another seven requests on the November 10th agenda. As I had noted in my last update, many of these ratepayers paid their property taxes late because they were confused between the extended deadlines provided by Rocky View and Calgary (August 31st versus September 30th ).
Councillor Kissel attempted to gain support for a change that would provide a blanket waiver of the late payment penalty for property taxes paid between September 1st and 30th . Administration indicated that they would need some time to prepare such a measure. Kissel’s motion to table the requests from the November 10th meeting
until November 24 th succeeded. Unfortunately, her second motion to have Administration bring back the necessary changes for the November 24th council meeting failed 6-3 with only Councillor Hanson and me supporting her.
At the November 24 th meeting, Councillor Hanson made a motion to cancel the late payment penalty for all property taxes paid by September 30 th . This motion failed 5 – 4, with Kissel, Gautreau and me supporting Hanson. Councillor Boehlke said there was no debate – it was like paying a speeding ticket. if you didn’t pay on time you had to pay the penalty. Councillor Schule said that he might have supported it had we not already made some ratepayers pay the late fee. In response to my questions about how ratepayers had been notified about the due date,
Administration said the information was part of the tax notification packages sent out back in May. They confirmed that the County had not advertised in Rocky View Weekly nor sent out reminders through the County’s Safe and Sound system. For these reasons, I supported Hanson’s motion.
The specific requests for waiving the late payment penalty were all defeated 6 – 3, with only Hanson, Kissel and me supporting the requests.
ECONOMIC RECOVERY TASK FORCE REPORT
In his first official presentation to Council, CAO Hoggan reported on the recommendations of the Economic Recovery Task Force. The task force examined what the County could do to spur economic recovery and build economic resilience.
The report provided four main recommendations:
1) Create opportunities for enhanced business-to-business connections and for connections between businesses and prospective employees and businesses and customers;
2) Develop a comprehensive RVC Marketing Plan;
3) Reduce red-tape to enhance RVC’s business-friendly environment;
4) Advocate through provincial, national, and international agencies to raise the profile of the County;
The report identified some interest statistics, for example did you know that there are over 20,000 jobs in Rocky View? Or that over the past 10 years the County’s assessment base has grown by over $5 billion? It also identified some shortcomings such as the need to enhance digital technology and improve internet connectivity. As well, the need to create a local business directory and to push the “shop local” agenda.
I found the suggestion for “County representatives such as the Mayor or local business leaders on provincial trade delegations to other countries to market the County as an investment destination” questionable in terms of the value to taxpayers. No one denies the County could be marketed better, but that should be achieved by strengthening our economic and business development departments. Conversely, I found the strong focus on agri-business encouraging and fully appreciate the commitment to improve the County’s permitting process.
I also found it interesting that the Task Force concluded “that many businesses, residents, and visitors to the Calgary Region are not aware that Rocky View County exists as a municipal entity separate from the towns and cities in our metropolitan area.” I made this point as a reason why residents confused the city’s tax payment deadline with our own. Unfortunately, while this may be a valid concern for attracting business, it held little value for those who already call Rocky View home.
APPLICATION FOR LIVE/WORK IN DIVISION 5 DENIED
An application for a live/work redesignation in Division 5 was refused unanimously. The
application was for storage/parking of 5 trucks. Administration recommended refusal.
One of the criteria for live/work is that the parcel is adjacent to industrial or commercially zoned properties. Although the neighbouring property does have industrial activity, it is the subject of an enforcement complaint and is not zoned industrial.
Administration pointed out that the applicant did not need to redesignate the property to conduct his business from there, that could be achieved through an amended Home-Based Business application. This alternative would avoid permanently rezoning the property.
ELECTION BYLAW REVIEW
Administration recommended that the County consolidate its rules associated with municipal elections into one bylaw. Most of the provisions in the new bylaw are simply carrying forward existing practices, policies and bylaws. These include conducting the school board elections in conjunction with the municipal election, designating multiple voting stations for each division, rules for candidate nominations.
Administration also asked for Council direction on the possibility of using mail-in ballots and automatic vote counting machines.
Although the Local Authorities Election Act allows special ballots, it does not currently
recognize Covid-19 restrictions as a reason for their use. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs is working on a possible amendment to permit this use in response to requests from a number of municipalities that would like to offer mail-in ballots as an option in October 2021. Administration indicated that if Council was interested in pursuing this option, they would come back with detailed recommendations on how to implement special mail-in ballots.
Administration was also suggesting that the County look at using automatic vote counting machines since the October 2021 election will include a provincial Senate election ballot and at least one provincial referendum question in addition to the usual municipal and school board ballots.
Councillor Boehlke felt that, given all the problems with mail-in ballots south of the border, special ballots should not be allowed. He also felt that counting machines were a waste of money and would prefer ballots were counted by hand as machines could be manipulated.
I asked how scrutineers could challenge the legitimacy of a mail-in ballot. Administration
indicated that there was no mechanism for challenging these votes other than when the ballots are counted. I also expressed concerns with what types of identification would be acceptable at polling stations, especially given that vouching for another person without a voters’ list will now be allowed. Administration pointed out that a municipality can set its own rules for what identification is acceptable for voting.
The motion asking Administration to come back to provide Council with more information on the special ballot (mail-in ballot) process was defeated 5-4 with only Hanson, McKylor, Kamachi and me in support.