A couple of months ago, the County’s recreation model changed from 10 district boards to a centralized Recreational Governance Model (Council). In October, Council also directed Administration to prepare a report on the establishment of a Recreation and Parks Foundation to support the buildout and long-term maintenance of County recreation and parks’ amenities and programs. On the planning side, to improve the subdivision and development permit process, a Municipal Planning Commission is being considered.
The goal of these changes is to improve transparency, accountability and consistency. They are, in part, modelled after programs that are functioning well in other municipalities.
Changes were also made to the Procedure Bylaw. As a result, Council no longer accepts late written submissions for public hearings. There is a belief that this will improve transparency, as late written submissions are not publicly available. Anyone who has missed the submission deadline may still attend the meeting and speak before Council.
Recording how each councillor votes is also no longer automatic, rather it is done solely at a councillor’s request. How I vote on a matter is reported in my bi-weekly update, please consider subscribing – email@example.com. You can also watch council on live-stream or YouTube to see how your councillor votes. It’s something everyone should do, especially on more contentious issues. You can see first-hand how this Council functions.
The procedures for land use applications have also changed. Under the old system, first, second, and third readings typically occurred at one Council meeting. Now, an application comes before Council with basic information to determine whether the proposal holds any merit. If Council believes there is merit, they may grant the application first reading. If not, it may be refused.
First reading only means that an application can come forward with a more fulsome report and a public hearing at a later date; it is not guaranteed approval. On the public hearing day, Council receives reports and presentations, including submissions from the public. Council can then amend, refuse, or approve the application as was done previously. This new process is followed by most Alberta municipalities. It can save considerable time and money for the County and the applicant.
From the commencement of the County Plan review to the Bearspaw Area Structure Plan review to the final steps of the Land Use Bylaw review, a lot is going on that requires public engagement. Robust and meaningful public engagement is key to the creation of good documents, however, there is such a thing as quality over quantity. For those who have attended the open houses or participated in the online surveys, thank you. Their format may not always be ideal, but your feedback is of critical importance. Please participate.