Bearspaw urgent pumping initiative slowed down

An initiative to lower high levels in a Bearspaw pond before winter was downgraded to a next year’s project.

“I would suggest…you may not see any pumping before the spring,” said General Manager Byron Riemann.

On Oct. 11, Bearspaw representative Coun. Eric Lowther brought in an emergent motion to lower the water levels in a pond in the Meadow Drive area.

“The water in the primary pond is higher than it’s ever been in the fall (and) has caused some property damage,” said Lowther, adding the pond is now over 14 feet deep in a spot that 25 years ago was almost dry.

“The County has done extensive pumping…about four years ago,” said Lowther. “Some roads had to be built up and re-paved and protected.”

However, Riemann said overland pumping will require approvals from Alberta Environment as well as from downstream neighbours through whose properties the pumped water would run.

Ponds in Bearspaw have been growing steadely for years. Photo: Enrique Massot

Ponds in Bearspaw have been growing steadely for years. Photo: Enrique Massot


An amount of $70,000 available for emergency funding, Riemann said, has already been spent in pumping operations in the Langdon area, making necessary extra funds that will need Council’s approval.

Lowther said his motion provided flexibility in regards to the type of action and its timing.

“The motion is not prescriptive. It’s only saying, ‘take appropriate action to address the situation’” said Lowther. “I am not defining what appropriate action is.”

Coun. Margaret Bahcheli said the issue of Bearspaw floods has been dragging for too long.

“This is not new to this Council,” she said. “I have no problem bringing public money and public property to try to solve this problem.”

Bahcheli also said development with inappropriate storm water management contributed or created the area’s flood issues.

“The lack of drainage in this area is a private developer’s mistake as far as I am concerned,” she said.

An MPE Engineering master drainage plan for Bearspaw completed in 2009 proposes to provide drainage routes by “re-interconnecting ponds that had been inadvertently blocked or redirected by development activity.”

Riemann said implementation of the master plan is on hold until easements from private landowners through whose land drainage channels would need to run.

In March 2013, Council rejected an application to create three two-acre parcels in the area because of flooding concerns.

However, last November Council approved eight additional two-acre lots on Meadow Drive at a time where Bearspaw had not yet an elected representative.

Land-use for the new subdivision was approved 7-1, with Coun. Jerry Arshinoff casting the lone vote in opposition.

In 2013, the Rocky View Weekly reported that a staff member estimated the County was spending more than $300,000 per year pumping in the area.

Developer’s event did not cause bias: Reeve

Four Rocky View councillors said accepting an invitation from the developer of the Cottage Club at Ghost Lake did not make them biased when discussing a related application five days later.

Reeve Greg Boehlke and councillors Lois Habberfield, Eric Lowther and Bruce Kendall said they did not know a request for a house’s non-compliant deck was in the Oct. 11 agenda when they accepted an invitation to attend the Cottage Club on Oct. 6.

“We had not seen our agendas at that point,” said Boehlke. “I don’t believe so.”

As a result, none of the four abstained from voting on the item, which was unanimously approved.

Kendall said the developer organized the event, while a builder submitted the application.

The Cottage Club is located in the edge of the Ghost Lake. Photo: Enrique Massot

The Cottage Club is located in the Ghost Lake shore. Photo: Enrique Massot


“It (had) nothing to do with the applicant or the owners of the property,” he said.

Boehlke said the purpose of the invitation was to see a recently opened recreation centre at the Cottage Club.

“It was basically to look at the beautiful new centre,” he said.

But Coun. Margaret Bahcheli, who declined to attend, disagreed.

“I am reading that right now,” she said. “The invitation was (for) a councillor appreciation.”

Bahcheli said she received a call Oct. 6 from the event host, to check confirmation on whether she would attend.

“And they still did not tell me that it was a walk through a new semi-public building,” she said. “It was still said to me over the phone: ‘councillor appreciation.’”

In 2007, Rocky View approved the Cottage Club as a recreation resort in the edge of the Ghost Lake, 11 miles west of Cochrane.

The development, on its third of five phases, is planned for a total 350 cabins prepared for seasonal occupancy.

Bahcheli said attending such an event would not be appropriate.

“This was not prudent for any councillor to have accepted it,” she said. “I am surprised that some did.”

Opinion: New Conrich ASP: Another fiasco in the making?

By Enrique Massot
County News Online

What would be the urgent motivation for Deputy Reeve Earl Solberg to come up with a member-only motion to instruct Genesis Land Development Corporation “to immediately proceed with creation of the Omni Area Structure Plan?”

What would be the motivation of four other councillors to give support to the motion, which had been strongly disallowed by Administration as a potential risk for the municipality?

County staff recommended Council not to approve Solberg’s motion because it literally gives Genesis green light to develop farmland in Conrich into highway business—without acquiring a legal obligation to fund sewage servicing.

“Administration recommends not proceeding with the Genesis Corporation Omni Area Structure Plan until such time as waste water servicing capacity is determined through legal agreements,” read the recommendation.

The motion also violated Planning Policy 322, which reads “Area structure plan requests relying on County utility services shall not be added to the priority list until the County has confirmed servicing capacity exists or…will be provided through legal agreements or other methods satisfactory to the County.”

In summary, Council granted a corporation certainty of being able to develop its land—without receiving in exchange assurances about  upgrades required to service the development.

Coun. Lois Habberfield, who opposed the motion, expressed concern that, after granting development rights, the County could be pressured into providing services—and Coun. Margaret Bahcheli recalled lawsuit threats were made by developers at the time of the Balzac water fiasco.

Those concerns are not abstract. The County still has a $60-million unpaid long-term debt from the last time it stepped up to build infrastructure to solve developers’ needs in Balzac. It is unknown how such debt will be paid back, at a time when the Langdon Waste Water Treatment Plant reaches capacity and needs multi-million dollar upgrades.

Rocky View offered to provide sewage services to a development in Wheatland County, investing at least $1.4 million in the venture, and ended up subsidizing the cost of sewage treatment to the tune of about $250,000 per year, from 2007 to 2015.

But none of that deterred councillors Eric Lowther, Rolly Ashdown, Bruce Kendall and Reeve Greg Boehlke from voting in favour of Solberg’s motion.

Solberg emphasized the need for the County to have more non-residential tax revenue. He did not mention the financial risks of lacking a servicing agreement. In the end, the main concern of the councillors who voted for Solberg’s motion were the developer’s need of having approval for his area structure plan so that it could obtain financing for its project.

We would not of course suggest that a $3,000 election campaign contribution Genesis made to Solberg would have anything to do with the deputy reeve’s motion.

Nor would we suggest that Coun. Ashdown’s vote would have been influenced by a Genesis’ $2,000 campaign contribution in 2013.

A modest $1,000 contribution would not have influenced the vote of Coun. Kendall, similarly to Eric Lowther, who received $1,000 for his unsuccessful 2013 election campaign but received nothing from Genesis during the 2015 byelection that gave him a Div. 8 seat.

It would indeed be a mistake to attribute any of the brave councillors’ loyalties may have influenced by developers’ money handed at a time when advertising dollars may make a difference in an election.

Asked in open council whether the contributions would be a cause a conflict of interest, the councillors invariably assured the public that they would not be influenced.

So why would those councillors behave more as agents for a developer instead of protecting the interests of the residents who pay their wages?

Those who trusted enough to vote those elected officials to their seat have a fair right to ask.

Council greenlights development plan–without servicing agreement

Rocky View Administration says allowing a developer to create an area structure plan for highway development in Conrich could place the County at undue risk.

The reason, said General Manager Byron Riemann, is that Genesis Land Development Corporation, with the Omni area structure plan, has not signed a legal agreement ensuring financial support for waste water servicing upgrades for the project.

“We do not have an agreement,” said Riemann. “We don’t have a funding strategy to increase the (Langdon waste water) plant.”

Development in Conrich, Balzac and Langdon depends on the Langdon plant for sewage servicing, but capacity is nearly exhausted so the plant needs upgrades to be able to service additional development. Council will receive an administrative report on Nov. 22 outlining ways in which the plant expansion could be funded.

Weed Lake, a shallow water body adjacent to Langdon that receives effluent from the plant, is also near capacity in current conditions.

However, a group of councillors present at the Sept. 27 meeting gave priority to the developer’s needs and voted 5-3 to give green light to Genesis for the Omni area structure plan–without a serving agrement being signed.

“We cannot encourage major projects…if we are not legally, completely covered.” Coun. Margaret Bahcheli

Reeve Greg Boehlke, Deputy Reeve Earl Solberg and councillors Eric Lowther, Rolly Ashdown and Bruce Kendall cast votes in favour.

In opposition voted councillors Lois Habberfield, Margaret Bahcheli and Liz Breakey. Coun. Jerry Arshinoff was absent due to an illness.

Habberfield said Rocky View was put in a difficult situation in the early 2000s when it gave approvals to a mall and a racetrack without having secured water available to service the project.

“I remember that being very, very stressful,” she said.

Bahcheli said there were not only pressures but threat of lawsuits.

“We cannot encourage major projects…if we are not legally, completely covered,” she said.

Administration said Policy 322 requires developers relying on County utility services to present either proof of existing servicing capacity or legal agreements ensuring such capacity will be created.

“Administration is recommending not to proceed with the Omni area structure plan until such time as waste water servicing capacity is determined through a legal agreement,” an administrative report to Council read.

However, other councillors dismissed concerns and said the developer needed to start the area structure plan in order to obtain financing.

“Without some assurances to go ahead with their plan they have no ability to actually achieve any kind of contribution,” said Solberg.

Solberg, whose member-only motion mandated the County to instruct Genesis “to immediately proceed with creation of the Omni Area Structure Plan,” said the company “has been interested in helping funding the expansion of the Langdon Waste Water Plant.”

So, we tried the egg scenario,” he said. “I think now it’s time to try the chicken.”

Coun. Bruce Kendall strongly argued in favour of Solberg’s motion.

“We have no choice given our direction and the approvals that we have in place but to expand that plant,” he said. “It’s a case of how we are going to pay for it and when we are going to be able to get it done.”

Kendall also said Genesis has “committed” to pay the required funds to upgrade the Langdon waste water treatment plant.

“But they won’t commit to do that without some indication that their land use is going to be acceptable,” he said.

As it became clear that Solberg’s initiative was going to be approved, Administration pleaded with Council to at least postpone the approval of the motion until December—that is, after the Nov. 22 meeting in which funding options for the treatment plant expansion will be presented.

Bahcheli said the developers of the Omni project, which would take most of the capacity of the Langdon treatment plant’s upgrades, were invited to come forward and negotiate an agreement for nearly two years–to no avail.

“To me that’s terrifying,” she said. “These developers are talking billion-dollar developments. So whose shoulders does the (treatment plant) expansion fall on?”

But Boehlke dismissed Bahcheli’s concerns.

“When I hear dramatic statements (such as) how terrified we are of passing another non-residential ASP, I do not concur with that,” he said.

“All the conditions that need to be met will be met before (the ASP) goes ahead.”

Long-serving councillor recalls stress during Balzac water fiasco

In a rare account of the behind-the-scenes of the 2007 Balzac water fiasco, councillor and former reeve Lois Habberfield the stress of being called to task to provide water Rocky View did not have, after Council approval of development plans. 

“My experience tells me that when Council approves an area structure plan, there is an expectation that Council is going to go to the next step,” said Habberfield on Sept. 27.

“And I remember the racetrack and casino and the mall in Balzac—we were told we were approving concept plans and area structure plans. All sounded good. And all of a sudden there was like ‘OK, you approved this, you are (now) supposed to provide water and sewer.’

“And I went: What? Somehow missed that step, and the province was coming down on the same roll: ‘Yeah, the expectation is what kind of a municipality approves these things and does not have water and waste water to go along with it?’

“I remember that being very, very stressful. And in the end, we did get the Western Irrigation District (water) agreement which was not an easy deal and they had to vote on it and a lot of variables (were) going on. I personally have to say to Coun. Solberg: It’s not that I am not interested on this and other economic development projects, but that made me very uncomfortable and I am not sure I want to go there yet. I understand that (the developers) have a time crunch with their financing and the market, there is other projects out there that could beat them to the bunch, but I do not think I can do that again because we have other options now and we have other things in the works that, if everything comes together, then I think there is more of the time (sic).

“That’s my discomfort level of there will be an expectation if they go ahead and sure they’ll fund the ASP. But if Council approves them…then there will be an expectation that we got to do something. And it puts undue pressure on a future Council, I feel.”

County to finance sewage treatment plant upgrade

In dramatic terms, a councillor emphasized the need to expand a sewage treatment plant so that Rocky View can approve and service more development proposals.

“Without that I would suggest, like Nero, we are going to sit here and fiddle while Rome burns,” said Coun. Bruce Kendall.

On Sept. 27, Kendall received unanimous approval for his motion directing Administration to explore funding options to expand the capacity of the Langdon Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP).

“We’ve approved the Conrich area structure plan… with potential growth for 10,000 people,” said Kendall. “We have approved the Langdon ASP which will allow that community growth to almost 14,000 people.”

Therefore, Kendall added, “we’ll need further servicing abilities.”

Kendall’s motion directs Administration to explore avenues such as borrowing, using reserve funds, grants, developer-funding options or a combination of funding sources, and to report back to Council on Nov. 22.

Coun. Margaret Bahcheli wanted to know why further expenses to upgrade the treatment plant are required at a time when the County still owes $60-million it spent on past upgrades.

“Like Nero, we are going to sit here and fiddle while Rome burns.” Coun. Bruce Kendall.

The WWTP was originally built to service the Hamlet of Langdon, but it was expanded so that it could also treat sewage generated by new commercial development in Balzac and Conrich.

Starting in 2005, the County began borrowing to upgrade the plant, build a 53-km-long pipeline and pumping stations from Balzac to Langdon, and create a potable water system servicing Balzac.

Coun. Margaret Bahcheli wanted to know why $60 million in levies remain owed while the treatment plant is about to reach its capacity limits.

“The original business plan (was) we were charging for people, developers, to access into it,” she said. “So, (is) this motion…an admission that it did not pay for itself?” she asked.

Rocky View implemented levies to be paid by developers accessing the sewage line, but collected little more than the interests on the debt from 2006 to 2013, when steep levy increases were implemented at the insistence of the late councillor Al Sacuta.

General Manager Byron Riemann said he could not answer Bahcheli’s questions because Kendall’s motion called Administration to find ways to fund future expansion only.

“I do not know if there is anything giving the Administration direction to do that sort of forensic look at what was completed in the past,” he said.

Bahcheli said Council should receive detailed financial information on the Balzac-Langdon wastewater system.

“This harkens back to the original idea…let’s use taxpayers’ money and build the pipeline,” she said. “Would we not have to…take a look at what happened on the first part?”

Coun. Eric Lowther asked how much consideration Administration have given to the possibility of developers with projects in the service areas fronting the funds to upgrade the WWTP.

“How deep are you going to go with this, I mean, developer-funded options?” he asked.

Riemann said Administration has been in conversation with developers for the last two years, and had begun to draft an agreement for one developer as recently as two months ago.

“Obviously we’ll continue to push…but still need commitment from that developer to make that happen,” he said.

Kendall’s motion was approved 8-0, in absence of Coun. Jerry Arshinoff due to an illness.

Opinion: Attack on regional planning misleading

By Enrique Massot
County News Online

A recent opinion column published in the Calgary Herald Sept. 15 offers a unique insight into the development industry’s lobbying tactics.??????????????

The piece, signed by Bruce McAllister as former MLA for Chestermere-Rocky View, argues against the provincial government’s plans to reinstate regional planning in Alberta—making it mandatory in the Calgary area.

McAllister, who omitted to disclose a current paid position in a developers’ lobby group, supported his opinion with several inaccurate statements. He announced that Bill 21 (the Modernized Municipal Government Act) that will update the legislative framework for municipalities would:

  1. Implement centralized planning reducing municipal autonomy
  2. Eliminate competition
  3. Increase the size of government

Claims 1 and 2 are plain wrong.

Let’s consider the first point—centralized planning. There is no such thing in the books. Individual municipalities will continue to do their own planning. Growth management boards, however, will “address land-use planning, servicing of growth, regional service delivery, cost sharing, and dispute resolution.

That is, there will be a regional plan, and the board should ensure compliance. Regional planning’s most useful feature would be preventing inappropriate, parasitical development—that is, development that takes advantage of the proximity of an urban centre but without paying the equivalent land costs, development levies and urban taxes. That should back residents who have been fighting tooth and nail—more often than not unsuccessfully—against invasive, urban-like development in the countryside.

Secondly, eliminate competition. How? There will always be Calgary for those wanting to live near all the services and amenities of a large urban centre. Smaller cities such as Airdrie or Chestermere, towns such as Cochrane, villages and hamlets all the way to country residential will continue to provide settings to suit all tastes. Minimum urban density requirements are given as averages, leaving room for diversity of housing types.

In his op-ed, McAllister also states that a growth management board would not have allowed Rocky View to approve the CrossIron Mills mall in Balzac citing “the cost of servicing and water availability as reasons.”

“Instead of duplicating costly services, municipalities should work together.” Danielle Larivee, Alberta Municipal Affairs minister

That, indeed, would have spared Rocky View taxpayers from becoming guarantors of a debt that remains nearly $60-million debt after originating in 2005, when Rocky View decided to defy Calgary and build its Made-in-Rocky View water and sewage infrastructure to support the mall. A year earlier, Calgary had proposed Rocky View to provide water and sewer for Balzac at a cost estimated at about $30 million. Rocky View chose to go on its own—and ended up spending way over $100 million for a system that will soon need upgrading—at additional costs.

“Instead of duplicating costly services, municipalities should work together to deliver more effective, efficient services to their communities,” wrote minister of Municipal Affairs Danielle Larivee in a rebuttal published by the Calgary Herald Sept. 17.

What McAllister calls “competition” and “establishing a great revenue source,” was in reality a risky venture in which Rocky View’s taxpayer-backed credit financed water and sewer in the countryside so that a mall could attract Calgary customers while saving on land costs, development fees and business tax. Developers’ levies have so far fell short of paying back the County for its investment as originally planned.

Tangible benefits for Rocky View residents? Increased tax revenue, officials claim. However, Rocky View never published numbers on the additional tax benefit less related planning and development expenses, as well as the cost of additional municipal services.

Thirdly: Increasing the size of government: Growth management boards will be formed by elected officials of the municipalities involved—not by NDP appointees as McAllister suggested. There may be some administrative staff required, but hey—what has been the cost to taxpayers of decisions such as Rocky View’s servicing Balzac, most of which is still paying interest after over 10 years? The County’s rejection of regional planning also means rejection of regional servicing in favour of the use of sewage stand-alone systems that require means such as spraying of nearby fields to get rid of treated effluent.

McAllister cunningly summons ominous Soviet-era terms such as “central planning” in an effort to depict with dark tones the regional planning initiative.

Again, he omits to mention an example of regional planning that is already working next door.

The Capital Region Board has represented 24 municipalities in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region since 2008 on issues of growth, transportation, housing and regional services. A regional sewage system has been servicing 13 municipalities and over 200,000 residents in the Alberta Capital Region since 1985.

Further, regional planning in the Calgary region had been in place for some 40 years before the Klein government dumped it in the mid-1990s, a story well documented in detail by former Calgary Herald reporter David Climenhaga in Death and Life of Regional Planning in the Calgary Area.

Lastly, McAllister could have made readers a favour by disclosing his current job as Executive Director of Rocky View 2020, a developers’ lobby group in Rocky View County.

McAllister is the only visible head of the organization, which presents itself as a “not-for-profit community advisory organization” and was created by Calgary-based developers with large projects in Rocky View County. However, most Calgary Herald readers would not be able to know that Rocky View 2020 and McAllister’s agenda are one and the same.

Developers, of course, hate the prospect of regional boards hampering their ambitious projects, and Rocky View is their battlefield. For the last 15 years, the industry has successfully placed friendly majorities in Council so that rural lands surrounding Calgary became their playground. Hundreds of millions in private profits are at stake. Consequences of easy approvals that include chronic floods, failed subdivisions, planning aberrations are left to the public purse to fix, as in the recent example of Cochrane Lake.

The young Calgary region still has a chance to avoid becoming an endless, sprawling and car-dependent collection of suburban neighbourhoods, a path that has made so many other metropolitan regions victims of their own success. Bringing back meaningful regional planning could preserve one of the region’s most prized assets: its beautiful countryside.

Opinion: Development-focused councillors forget about residents

By Jerry Arshinoff
Councillor, Div. 2, Rocky View County

Re: “Sad State of Affairs in Rocky View”, Rocky View Weekly, Sept. 20

Jerry Arshinoff (2)Leslie Fitzgerald’s comments regarding “the state of affairs in Rocky View County (RVC) today where developments seem to be approved at all costs without proper checks and balances” hit the nail on the head. 

The parts of Windhorse Manor in Springbank that are an unfinished eyesore and potentially dangerous are a prime example of what’s going on but certainly not the only one. The same is true in many areas throughout Rocky View.

Perhaps the best example of the current disdain for the well-being of residents is that Council still approves developments where treated sewage will be sprayed on adjoining fields. Even areas that are prone to flooding have had developments approved that will pipe water in but not out. When affected residents complain of flooding, traffic, noise and/or unsightliness, Council pays no attention. Only in a few select cases bylaw enforcement can be called upon to rectify the situation. Staff charged with enforcing predominantly toothless bylaws is overworked, under manned and underfunded.  Even worse, Council has so far supported a Transportation Off Site Levy system whereby ordinary residents are required to subsidize the transportation infrastructure needed for large developments.

“Where does RVC’s responsibility come into play?” is Fitzgerald’s basic question—a question that Council refuses to consider. For over 10 years Council has claimed Rocky View is “Open for Business” and that endless development would lead to plentiful taxation revenue.

Yet what has happened over that same period is that traffic and flooding have dramatically worsened, RV resident taxation has increased more than the inflation rate, the County debt has increased by a factor of 12 and many properties have been severely devalued.

Unless we get a “resident first” Council, there is every reason to assume the same trend will continue and likely get worse.

While located a stone’s throw from Calgary, Rocky View does offers cheaper land, lower levies, lax regulations and a Council majority that falls in love with every developer who walks through the door. Developers who contribute to Councillors’ election campaign expenses appear to be exceptionally popular.

Rocky View does not lack good developers who have created outstanding communities. If only “Open for Business” really meant that instead of “Open for Subsidies,” we could and would have good development. Instead, Rocky View’s attitude that all development is good development is a source of headaches for neighbours and those affected are treated with disdain by Council.

However, there are solutions. Electing a “resident first” Council could begin improving abnormal situations throughout the municipality.

In the meantime, a growing number of residents are told to “pay your taxes and go away.”


Resident questions development near provincial park

By Enrique Massot
County News Online

A west Rocky View resident says approving residential development the size of a town in an area predominantly agricultural makes little sense for the County.

“The fundamental question…is why the County is even considering encouraging development in this area,” wrote Janet Ballantyne. “There are many, many other areas…where development would be far more appropriate.”

Ballantyne submitted a detailed letter to County planners as part of public input on the Glenbow Ranch Area Structure Plan (GRASP).

The GRASP foresees the construction of nearly 5,000 homes over 4,000 acres south of Highway 1A, between Calgary and Cochrane.

“Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park was created in 2008, and the existing Bearspaw Plan does not adequately support the park,” noted County planners in a background document.

“GRASP is proposing the equivalent of a sizable town with 14,300 residents.” Janet Ballantyne

Planners also stated that residential development has occurred in adjacent Calgary and Cochrane and that the amount of population reaching retirement age in Bearspaw has nearly doubled in the last decade.

However, Ballantyne questions the County’s rational to develop an area that remains predominantly rural.

She noted the County’s master development plan—the County Plan—calls for development to be concentrated in areas already being developed.

“GRASP is proposing the equivalent of a sizable town with 14,300 residents in what is now almost purely agricultural land,” she noted. “It is not clear how this can be portrayed as fitting within existing settlement patterns.”

In addition, she noted, “Nowhere in the County Plan does country residential development contemplate total populations or population densities comparable to those being proposed in this draft ASP.”

In her letter, Ballantyne also stated concerns about the cost of building new road accesses to Highway 1A, utility servicing, potable water availability, storm water management and inconsistencies with the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan.

Area residents submitted similar concerns at an open house about the GRASP on May 16. Verbatim comments can be read on pages 16 to 18 of a report titled Phase 4 Interim Engagement Summary.

The report stated that residents’ concerns include potential traffic impacts, “the changing nature of the community away from country residential to something more urban; and negative wildlife impacts from increased traffic.”

Click on the link to read Ballantyne’s full letter.






Cancelled hamlet development concerns councillor

By Enrique Massot
County News Online

A Rocky View elected official wants to know the consequences of abandoning plans to create a fully-serviced hamlet in Balzac West.

In April 2015, Council decided to cancel plans to urbanize the Balzac area west of the QE2 highway after it was determined that costs to provide piped water to the area would be over $120 million plus about $98 million to build a wastewater system.

A motion presented by Deputy Reeve Earl Solberg would direct County Administration to, among other items, inform on the consequences of the decision to abandon growth planning in West Balzac.

If approved, the motion would also direct staff to investigate whether cancelling one of four urban nodes identified in the County Plan “may restrict the County’s capacity to achieve the targeted 3% regional population increase.”

If warranted, the motion proposes to “identify criteria to consider strategic growth planning for a new full service rural community in a location that addresses strategic growth management principles.”

Administration, however, is recommending Council to approve an alternative motion that would direct staff to prepare a detailed report comparing County growth in 2016 versus 2013.

The report would also update the 2011 Residential Land Inventory and show population projections based on approved and anticipated-to-be-approved Area Structure Plans including Cochrane Lake, Harmony, Langdon, Glenbow and Conrich.

Growth scenarios and residential versus non-residential growth components would be also included in the report, which would be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2017.

Council will consider both Solberg’s motion and the Administration recommendation at its first regular meeting after the summer break, Sept. 13.

To read the Administrative report, download the full Sept. 13 agenda and go to page 107. The agenda will be available online until Sept. 13.

Rocky View to lobby for mandatory fire sprinklers

Revenue from new development failing to pay for additional fire services

By Enrique Massot
County News Online

Existing and new Rocky View County residents are paying for shortages in funding for fire protection for newly developed areas, an administrative report revealed.

“This impact on the new residents…is in the form of higher insurance premiums,” states a report to be presented to Council in the coming week.sprinkler

Existing residents, the report noted, are hit by “increased property tax to provide funding to service the newly developed areas.”

The County Administration’s assessment debunks received wisdom purporting that new development automatically increases a municipality’s wealthin fact, additional costs of services are often higher than new tax revenues.

“Revenues from additional development are not equal to the financial resources required to deliver fire protection into the new areas,” Administration reports.

Newly developed areas also lack recognized water systems for fire protection, compounding the shortages, the report added.

The result, Administration adds, is “increased strain on the current model of Fire Service Delivery.”

To mitigate such income shortage, Administration is proposing Council to ask rural municipalities to join in asking the provincial government to allow Alberta municipalities to make mandatory the use of fire sprinklers in all new residential construction.

That would require changes to the Safety Codes Act and the Alberta Building Code, which would put those regulations in line with the the Municipal Government Act (MGA) which “permits municipalities to determine what services it will provide and how it will deliver those services.”

Sprinklers, Administration reported, “will ease the impact on existing fire service by reducing the total time and resources allocated at each fire, significantly reduce the average amount of property loss and have a major impact on reducing risk of fire injury and death.”

Administration noted that home fire sprinklers reduce the risk of loss of life in a home fire by 80 percent and reduce the average property loss per home by 70 percent.

Staff also reported that municipalities in British Columbia that have implemented home fire sprinkler requirements have reduced their fire services delivery costs.

As a result, County Administration proposes Council to approve a resolution to be presented at the November meeting of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) to collectivelly request the provincial government to allow municipalities to make fire sprinklers mandatory for new homes.

Council will consider the request at its first meeting after the summer break, Sept. 13.

To see the full report, download Rocky View’s Sept. 13 Council agenda and go to page 100. The report is available online until Sept. 13 only.