September 27/22 Council Update
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
·DIVISION 4 ROAD CLOSURE AND CONSOLIDATION TABLED
·SOLAR FARM, ELECTRIC CHARGING STATION IN DIVISION 5 REFUSED
·BUSINESS LIVE-WORK LAND USE TO COME TO COUNCIL FOR OVERHAUL
·SPECIAL FUTURE URBAN DEVELOPMENT LAND USE TO RETURN TO COUNCIL
·CHANGES TO FIRST READING PROCESS
·CREATION OF GOVERNANCE COMMITTEE
DIVISION 4 ROAD CLOSURE AND CONSOLIDATION TABLED
An application to close a road allowance in the Grand Valley area of Division 4 was tabled in a 4- 2 decision, with Councillors Boehlke and Schule in opposition. Mayor Kochan was absent from the meeting.
The applicant’s reasons for the road closure were for safety and security. He cited concerns over hunters shooting within metres of his home and the increase in rural crime. The applicant was supported by the two neighbours who reside adjacent to the road allowance.
Those in opposition stated that closing the road allowance would prevent them from accessing a road allowance that is well-used by the community for recreational activities such as horse-riding and cross-country skiing.
Due to the potential changes coming forward on the road licensing bylaw, I moved to have the application tabled pending a decision on that bylaw. Closing the road is a permanent solution that could inhibit future access to what is currently public land. So, if another option might be available, it seemed appropriate to defer this decision until such options were clear.
SOLAR FARM, ELECTRIC CHARGING STATION IN DIVISION 5 REFUSED
Council refused an application to redesignate an 87-acre agricultural parcel into a Direct Control District with two parcels – a 47-acre parcel to accommodate a solar farm/electric charging station/data processing facility (in this case data mining) and a 40-acre remainder.
The applicant planned to erect solar panels to power an electric vehicle charging station, with enough electricity to power a data processing facility. They estimated that the station would service between 13 - 40 vehicles per day and would take 5—20 minutes to charge each vehicle.
The company is in the process of establishing a number of these facilities in Alberta and felt the location, the first major intersection north of Airdrie along Hwy 2, was a prime location. Their plans include integration with charging stations in the U.S.
There was opposition from the community who were concerned with glare and emissions. They also felt that it was a poor use of good agricultural land.
Councillor Boehlke moved to refuse the application stating that it would be more appropriate to locate it in the Area Structure Plan just north in Crossfield rather than in an agricultural area. His motion was supported unanimously.
BUSINESS LIVE-WORK LAND USE TO COME TO COUNCIL FOR OVERHAUL
In May, Deputy Mayor Kissel and I brought forward a motion to review the Business Live/Work (B-LWK) land use district along with the possibility of introducing a new Home-Based Business 3 (HBB3) development permit option.
At the September 27th council meeting, Administration identified several challenges with the B-LWK land use district and recommended removing it from the Land Use Bylaw.
Of note, B-LWK was only permitted in east-central Rocky View and was introduced by the previous Council to clean up problem areas that were non-compliant under existing land uses. However, since its inception, it has quickly become evident that the policy is not working. Instead, B-LWK has become a workaround for businesses that would be better suited to commercial or industrial areas. Administration proposed replacing the B-LWK district with a new Home-Based Business 3 (HBB3) that would require a site-specific land use amendment, a public hearing and Council approval.
Administration’s recommendation to have the amendments come back to Council for a public hearing no later than January was supported 4-2, with Schule and Boehlke in opposition.
SPECIAL FUTURE URBAN DEVELOPMENT LAND USE TO RETURN TO COUNCIL
The Special Future Urban Development (S-FUD) land use district was also added by the previous council. It was intended to allow for interim uses in areas where development is likely to occur in the near term, specifically within ASPs.
As Administration reported at the Sept. 27th council meeting, the S-FUD district has been
problematic as many applications have been received for S-FUD in areas of the County outside of approved ASPs.
Administration reviewed the S-FUD district against the Regional Growth Plan, County Plan, and existing ASPs and concluded there is no support for interim uses.
In a 4-2 decision, with all but Schule and Boehlke in support, Council agreed with
Administration’s recommendation to remove S-FUD from the Land Use Bylaw. The proposed amendments will come to a public hearing in January.
CHANGES TO FIRST READING PROCESS
In June, I brought forward a motion to have Administration to prepare a report on County’s planning process and the first reading process. All land use redesignations require a bylaw which must be given three readings by council. Since 2005, the County has used three distinctly different methods.
From 2005 - 2013, first reading bylaws were presented to Council with no staff report and were automatically given first reading without debate or amendment. These first readings happened immediately prior to advertising the public hearing related to the bylaw.
Between 2013 and 2019, all three readings of the bylaw for a land use redesignation followed the public hearing. All three readings could be approved in one Council meeting, subject to unanimous consent to consider third reading at the same meeting. While delaying the third reading vote until the following council meeting didn’t happen frequently, it is a tool that allows for sober second thought.
Under the current process (used since 2019), first reading bylaws are presented to Council shortly after the applications are received and are accompanied by a 1 -2-page staff report and have typically been dealt with through an omnibus vote. Until recently, no debate or discussion was allowed, nor could the first reading bylaws be refused. Although these have been relaxed, there are legal concerns that discussion or change before the public hearing might infer bias.
Administration noted that the County’s current process was problematic for several reasons. Giving the bylaws first reading so early in the process means that they frequently change dramatically as the application proceeds. This can create unnecessary concern for affected stakeholders as well as additional work for Administration. Furthermore, some applicants used “first reading” to suggest that their application had support from Council. This could deter some stakeholders with concerns about an application as they might think it a “fait accompli”. Conversely, some applicants were reluctant to undertake technical studies related to their application as they believed they already had Council support.
Administration recommended reverting to the procedure used from 2013-2019 since
considering all readings after the public hearing would simplify the land use application process for both applicants and stakeholders. It also frees up staff time that could be used to process applications more quickly and to focus on other initiatives.
In a 4-2 decision, with Boehlke and Schule in opposition, Administration was directed to
prepare amendments to relevant County policies and bylaws to have all three readings of land use redesignation bylaws dealt with after the associated public hearing.
CREATION OF GOVERNANCE COMMITTEE
At its July 26th meeting, Council approved nine project charters, one of which was the
Governance Improvement Charter. The purpose of the Governance Committee is to improve the County’s governance process by creating a forum for Council to receive updates and discuss strategic and governance matters in a more informal setting.
In March of 2022, Council established the Public Presentation Committee (PPC) to provide a venue for people to present ideas and proposals to Council. The previous Council had the Governance and Priorities Committee; however, it was disbanded in 2020.
These “committees of the whole” meetings provide a venue for a more informal discussion of matters that do not require a decision. The Governance Committee will provide Council with updates and presentations and give councillors an opportunity to provide direction to Administration on matters before they come to Council. The Governance Committee will shift the workload for non-decision agenda items from Council meetings.
Council voted unanimously to accept the committee. The terms of reference will be considered at the October 11th council meeting with meetings beginning in January.