Specialized municipality, potential 3rd council mtg, south conrich asp changes, landuse bylaw tabled
JUNE 23rd and JUNE 25th COUNCIL UPDATES
Council held two meetings last week – the first was a regularly scheduled Council meeting, the second was a special meeting specifically to discuss the Land Use Bylaw revisions.
· SPECIALIZED MUNICIPALITY STATUS UPDATE
· LANGDON JOINT USE FACILITY
· ASSESSMENT REVIEW BOARD MODIFICATIONS
· POTENTIAL THIRD MONTHLY COUNCIL MEETING
· SOUTH CONRICH CONCEPT SCHEME AMENDMENTS
· JUNE 25TH SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING – SOUTH CONRICH HEARING CHANGES
· JUNE 25TH SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING – LAND USE BYLAW REVIEW TABLED
SPECIALIZED MUNICIPALITY STATUS UPDATE
On June 23rd, Council received an update from the consultant on the results of the specialized municipality survey. The original plan had been to hold four open houses, however, due to COVID-19, Administration decided to conduct an online survey instead. The County received 401 responses to the survey. To ensure that the survey results were accurate the consultants also ran a control group survey of 307.
The survey findings revealed that turning Rocky View into a specialized municipality was not a “hot button” issue and awareness about the topic was not high. The survey found general support for the initiative with 51% in favour of creating a specialized municipality. That said, it was also noted that 25% of respondents were opposed and 10% stated that they could not answer as they required more information. A desire for increased services and linkage between taxes and services were the most common reasons for support for the proposal. Concern over potential tax increases was the most-cited reason for opposition.
Responses from our urban neighbours indicated that they believed that our request for specialized municipality was somewhat premature and that the status change could negatively impact the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB). They also believed that the County should enter into cost sharing agreements for Urban Service Areas prior to a status change. The consultant’s presentation was accepted for information and the topic will come back in July for Council to decide on next steps.
LANGDON JOINT USE FACILITY
In April, Council set aside $100,000 for the design of the Langdon Joint Use Facility – Langdon’s proposed high school / rec centre complex. In May, the Recreation Governance Committee directed Administration to work with Rocky View Schools (RVS) to create a joint use agreement.
Although earlier correspondence with the province had indicated that the plan was for a joint use facility, provincial funding at this time is only for a high school. As a result, Administration recommended earmarking $100,000 of the tax stabilization account for this project.
Councillor Schule attempted to have Administration continue working with the Langdon Community Association to complete the design of the Langdon Recreation Centre. Administration indicated that they thought it was premature to work on the design without understanding where funding for the $13-20 million project would come from. This prompted CAO Hoggan to remind Council that we should first determine the County’s role in Recreation before committing funds to major projects.
Schule’s idea did not receive Council support. Others on Council felt it was necessary to first have a fulsome discussion around how the County should meet recreational needs and continue the work being done on the Recreation Master Plan to create a strategy for the provision of recreational amenities in the County, including Langdon. As a result, the matter was tabled pending the completion of the Recreation Master Plan.
ASSESSMENT REVIEW BOARD MODIFICATIONS
In February, Council directed Administration to finalize discussions with potential partner municipalities and bring back options for a joint Assessment Review Board (ARB). The Board is currently operating with 4 of its 5 usual members. This hadn’t been seen as a problem given the expected imminent merger with another municipality.
However, due to COVID-19, Administration’s discussions to establish a joint ARB stalled.
Also due to the pandemic, the Province is not providing any training for new members. As a result, Administration recommended continuing with the ARB’s current structure for 2020 assessment complaints and filling the empty position by appointing a Councillor with the required ARB training. This would ensure there are enough trained members and provide continuity for the 2020 complaint season.
Administration recommended that Councillor Gautreau be placed on the Board. When I asked if his training was still valid, as it expires after three years, the Reeve interrupted by saying that Gautreau didn’t need to answer my question. When I asked Administration if Gautreau’s training was valid, Gautreau then responded by saying that it was and that he was “parachuted” into other municipalities from time to time when they were short a member. Interestingly, Council was not provided with the option of parachuting in trained individuals from other municipalities.
The motion to place Gautreau on the ARB was approved 5-3 with all but Councillors Hanson, Kissel and I in support. I didn’t support the decision for a few reasons. I felt it was rushed and we didn’t have enough information. As well, when a Councillor sits on a Board, the bylaw governing committee structure requires that the Councillor becomes the Chair of that Board. I believe the current Chair was doing a good job and it could remain as it was.
POTENTIAL THIRD MONTHLY COUNCIL MEETING
At the March 10th Council meeting, Administration was directed to prepare options for a potential third Council meeting each month. Council’s discussion focussed on two main points: whether to hold an additional Council meeting each month, as well as whether to hold meetings in the evening or afternoon.
The Administrative report stated that strains on staffing requirements and workloads for an additional meeting would be significant. The report also outlined how other municipalities currently hold their meetings. It was interesting to note that Alberta’s specialized municipalities all hold afternoon/evening meetings, as do Cochrane, Chestermere and Airdrie.
I found it difficult to understand how workloads would increase with an additional meeting. The purpose of the third meeting isn’t to create additional work, it would simply spread the work out over more meetings and help prevent marathon Council meetings and provide better overall governance for our ratepayers. The option of holding a third meeting in the afternoon or evening was to recognize that many residents can’t afford to take a day off work to attend day-time council sessions. Many on Council believed additional meetings could be handled as they are now – by calling special meetings. However, this does not provide the public with any clear idea as to when an additional meeting will be held.
Reeve Boehlke and Deputy Reeve Schule stated it would be difficult to stagger staff for evening or afternoon meetings and if people were interested in a matter they would come to a hearing. Councillor Gautreau indicated that he felt that the work is already spread out between other committees with the creation of the Municipal Planning Commission and the Recreation Governance Committee. Councillor Hanson pointed out that, while it is true if someone is impassioned enough about a topic they will come out, we should be following our Strategic Plan and improve transparency by providing options for people.
Hanson made a motion to have the option of afternoon or evening meetings considered at the October 2020 organizational meeting. The motion passed 5-3 with all but Deputy Reeve Schule and Councillors Gautreau and Henn in support.
SOUTH CONRICH CONCEPT SCHEME AMENDMENTS
On July 23rd, a combined public hearing considered applications to amend the South Conrich Concept Scheme and to redesignate the remaining 68-acre parcel (Phase 4) to Business Commercial Campus. Administration received 675 written submissions, split relatively evenly between support and opposition. Over 100 residents attended the public hearing.
Due to COVID-19, only the applicant and her technical experts were permitted to remain in Council Chambers. Those speaking in favour or against the proposal were ushered in a few at a time, allowed to present and then escorted out of the building. A loudspeaker was set up outside the building for those in attendance to hear the proceedings.
The majority of those supporting the application came from the Prince of Peace community, a retirement community south of the subject land. Their support was based on an understanding that approval of the applications would give them access to piped water – something they have been seeking for years.
The majority of those in opposition came from the immediately adjacent community which makes up the first three phases of the South Conrich Concept Scheme. Their position was that they had been sold their properties by the applicant on the understanding that all four phases of the concept scheme were to be residential and they did not want commercial and, particularly, light industrial development at the entrance into their community.
Local Councillor Gautreau moved to table the applications pending a presentation that is coming to Council on July 14th regarding water servicing for the area. The motion was supported 5-3 with all but Councillors Hanson, Kissel and me in support. After the tabling motion was passed, Administration noted that since the water servicing report on the 14th would be new information, there would need to be another public hearing.
JUNE 25TH SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING – SOUTH CONRICH HEARING CHANGES
At the beginning of the special council meeting, Councillor Gautreau asked to have the tabling of the Conrich applications from the July 23rd public hearing reconsidered. His motion succeeded 6-3 with all but Councillors Hanson, Kissel and me in support. I did not support Gautreau’s request because it had been tabled pending a report on July 14th and it didn’t make sense to me to proceed when no one who had been at the public hearing on June 23rd would know that timing for the decision had changed.
After some further confusion around the potential for providing the application second reading, the matter was retabled to come back to council on July 14th. Since the tabling is no longer contingent on the information in the water servicing report, there will not be an additional public hearing.
JUNE 25TH SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING – LAND USE BYLAW REVIEW TABLED
Administration has been working on rewriting the Land Use bylaw for the past few years. It has been a huge undertaking and the proposed final product came to Council for a public hearing on June 25th.
The County held numerous public engagement sessions and council workshops to create a clearer and more concise document. It is important to note that any Land Use District changes will not impact how you currently use your land, however if you choose to change or develop your land in the future you will need to follow any updated changes to the new bylaw.
The number of land use districts have been reduced to make for more streamlined processes. Other than the new names for land use districts, the key changes focused on problem issues like the number of animal units per property, number of dogs, keeping of chickens and bee keeping. As well, vacation rentals (e.g. VRBO and Airbnb properties) will now be considered a discretionary use that will require a development permit.
By and large the new document is solid, however, there were a few minor issues that council wanted to see corrected. As such, the matter was tabled so that Administration can bring back amendments for Council to consider on July 28th. Click here to see the proposed new bylaw.