Org shake up, County going to 7 divisions, tax penalty relief sought, Balzac ASP TORs approved
ORGANIZATIONAL LEADERSHIP SHAKE UP
On October 27th, Council held its annual organizational meeting. The biggest shake up came with the election of a new Reeve (Dan Henn) and Deputy Reeve (Kim McKylor).
Councillor McKylor keeps her position as Chair of the Recreation Governance Committee, while Councillor Gautreau retains his position as Chair of the Municipal Planning Commission. Councillor Kissel is now chair of the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board. I was nominated to two boards– the Ag Services Board, along with Councillors Boehkle and McKylor and Family and Community Support Services with Councillor Hanson. I attended my first Ag Services Conference (online) on Oct. 30th – it was super informative. Did you know that Alberta has the most robust pest surveillance system in Canada? I look forward to learning from the new experiences.
ELECTORAL BOUNDARY REVIEW: COUNTY TO GO TO 7 DIVISIONS
It’s official, in October 2021, the next municipal election, the County is changing to seven divisions!
Currently, Rocky View has nine divisions, some of which have over 6,000 residents while others have less than 3,000. The goal of the review project was to bring all electoral divisions to within +- 25% of the average population – a standard set by the Supreme Court for effective representation. Residents’ feedback during the review identified equal distribution of residents per division as their number one priority. They also indicated a preference for nine divisions and for a mayor elected at-large, not by Council.
The consultants’ rationale was that the seven divisions were “based on a series of linear divisions radiating out from the City of Calgary, resulting in divisions that blend dense growth areas with more rural low growth areas, balancing the composition of each division.” This is true of all divisions except Langdon where the consultants determined that its current growth rate justified making it a standalone division.
Under the new 7-division model, each division will be well within +-25% of the average 5,400 residents per division. To put this in perspective, I currently represent approximately 5,700 residents. Additionally, the savings of salaries and benefits of two additional councillors for four years equivalates to the better part of a million dollars.
So, what does this mean to you, the resident? For those of you who currently live south of Hwy 1A in Bearspaw, you will be in Division 3 which fans west to include the future Glenbow Ranch and the areas around Cochrane. If this were your division today, you would be represented by Councillor Kissel. For those of you who live north of Hwy 1A in Bearspaw, you will be with me in Division 4. The new Division 4’s boundaries extend to the north and far west and will include Bottrell and Madden. For a map of the new boundaries, please click here.
Council decided to continue to select the Reeve and Deputy Reeve at Council’s annual organization meeting, but to refer to these positions Mayor and Deputy Mayor after the October 2021 election.
RATEPAYERS SEEK RELIEF FROM LATE TAX PENALTIES
Unsurprisingly, given the current economic climate, the County is receiving record numbers of requests to waive late tax penalties. On October 28th, Council heard 5 requests from residential property owners and one from a business. Administration indicated that there were 30 requests coming to Council.
As most of you are aware, the County extended the date for paying property taxes with no penalty from July 1 to September 1. Requests to waive late tax payment penalties come to Council, where Council may use its discretion to waive the penalty.
Many residents were confused between Rocky View’s payment deadline and Calgary’s where the deadline was the end of September rather than the end of August. When I asked Administration how the County had advertised the payment date extension, Council was advised it was through the tax notices and advertising in the local paper. However, it was determined that the latter was not the case since the County stopped advertising in the Rocky View Weekly last year.
Given how much of our news is dominated by Calgary, I sympathize with ratepayers who were confused by the difference in the dates. This is further exacerbated by the fact that some of our newer residents believe that Rocky View is merely an extension of Calgary. When I asked if Administration had used Safe and Sound as a reminder, I was advised that was not its intended use. In my opinion, I believe that more could and should have been done to get our message out to our ratepayers. As such, along with Councillors Kissel and Schule, I supported waiving the penalty charges for these residents. The majority did not agree so none of the requests from residential ratepayers were granted.
While Administration had recommended refusing the requests to waive the late penalty charges for all the residential ratepayers, they recommended waiving the late payment penalty for the business ratepayer. CAO Hoggan explained Administration’s apparent contradictory recommendations by pointing out that this was a shallow gas producer and most of its assessed value comes from assets that could not be seized by the County if property tax payments went into serious default, unlike the case for houses or other buildings. Administration saw this as rationale for some leniency in this situation. While I had no problem supporting the business, I cannot fathom why similar consideration was not provided for our residential ratepayers.
WEST BALZAC EXPANSION TERMS OF REFERENCE APPROVED
Council approved the terms of reference for a developer funded and directed expansion to the Balzac East Area Structure Plan which will add 465-acres to the ASP. It was approved 6-3 with all but Councillors Kissel, Hanson and me in support.
As I have mentioned on previous occasions, without understanding how much land we have available in all our Area Structure Plans, how can we know if adding more land to inventory is a good idea. Without this information, I could not support the motion.
Because Council does not have answers to these questions, I made a motion arising asking Administration to provide a detailed summary of available lands in all ASPs by commercial, industrial or residential land uses along with the current yearly absorption rate of all ASPs throughout the County. After asking for some clarification, CAO Hoggan indicated that Administration could provide the requested information. My response to the CAO was to start with information on how much land in each ASP had been redesignated to its intended final uses. My logic was that we needed to start somewhere, and this information would only be the first step in getting this important information. Despite the CAO’s positive response, my motion failed 5-4 with only Councillors Kamachi, Hanson and Kissel supporting me.
Some on Council suggested that my motion would be too time consuming for Administration. However, immediately after my motion was defeated, Administration provided the requested level of detail for the East Balzac ASP by noting that 83% of its lands had been redesignated.