Opinion: Council should avoid money-losing ventures

By Enrique Massot
The County News

Rocky View council’s initiative to consider resuming sewage servicing to the Lakes of Muirfield should send chills down the spine of residents caring about how their taxes are being spent.

By the time the County stopped trucking and treating sewage from Muirfield in 2015, it had spent over $1.7 million over seven years in subsidies to the Wheatland County subdivision.

County administrators, to their credit, have advised council in no uncertain terms that they recommend staying away from Muirfield, after negotiating for almost two years to free the County from the losing-money venture.

In spite of that, council is going to look into the issue in a March workshop. In Rocky View, a council’s workshop stands by discussion behind closed doors of topics that could be debated in public.

Providing sewage treatment and disposal to a subdivision in another municipality was an unusual decision eight years ago and was supposed to open the door to provincial grants reserved for regional service providers.

The Hamlet of Dalroy. Photo: County News Archive.

 

Such grants, however, never materialized—and administration made clear to council in December that no grants are available at this time.

What, then, would be Coun. Bruce Kendall’s motivation in dragging the County into this venture again? Utitilies don’t make money—with luck, they recover costs and are for a large part cause of indebtedness in urban centres. In addition, Muirfield residents pay taxes to Wheatland County—not to Rocky View.

Nevertheless, Muirfield was built on the assumption the development would be serviced by Rocky View and a four-km pipe was built from Muirfield to Dalroy.

Follow-up plans to connect Dalroy to Langdon by sewage pipe at an estimated cost of $18 million never materialized. As a result, sewage from Muirfield was trucked to a lift station near Chestermere from where it was piped to the Langdon treatment plant.

What Rocky View residents got?

No connections to the system were made available to Dalroy residents. Instead, they got an ugly facility across the road and the inconvenience of trucks coming and going on the only graveled access road residents use.

Trucks load sewage from Muirfield at the Dalroy transfer station. Photo: County News archive.

 

Since Rocky View got out of the agreement with Muirfield, sewage from the subdivision has been trucked for treatment to the Town of Strathmore—another expensive option.

An 18-km Muirfield-Strathmore pipe was considered at a cost estimated at $8 to $10 million but failed to materialize, while a plan for a pipe to a sewage lagoon near Cattleland, north of Strathmore has apparently being abandoned as well.

The Strathmore Standard, which has extensively covered the issue, describes the servicing woes that Muirfield residents face.

In December, Rocky View administration told council that terminating the agreement with Muirfield not only ended the County’s $250,000 annual subsidy; it also freed some of the Langdon wastewater treatment plant’s limited capacity that can become available for projects in Balzac, Conrich and Langdon.

Muirfield residents, meanwhile, pay to truck their sewage from Dalroy to the Town of Strathmore at a high cost.

Lakes of Muirfield project manager Jim Souza told Rocky View in December that plans are to build over 800 residences and that 115 homes have been already sold.

Wheatland requires Muirfield to provide a servicing solution “via a pipe wastewater system constructed, licensed and permitted by Alberta Environment and Parks,” as noted in the County’s direct control bylaw 2015-39.

As much as they may sympathize with Wheatland County residents’ problems, Rocky View taxpayers would rightly expect their elected officials to work for the welfare of their own municipality. If there were possibilities for affordable servicing, there are plenty of residents who could benefit from the opportunity.

 

Rocky View considers resuming service to the Lakes of Muirfield

Seven-year money-losing project back on the table

By Enrique Massot
The County News Online

Two years after Rocky View freed itself from the money-losing venture, council will again consider resuming services to the Lakes of Muirfield.

“I do not think I am in a position to make a decision on Lakes of Muirfield…without having a proper business case discussion,” said Coun. Bruce Kendall.

Reeve Greg Boehlke spoke in support of Kendall’s motion to hold a council workshop in March to consider providing sewage treatment and disposal to the residential subdivision located in Wheatland County.

The Lakes of Muirfield, near Lyalta in Wheatland County. Photo: County News archive.

 

I am going to vote in favour of this,” Boehlke said. “To not explore (servicing Muirfield) would be turning our backs on potential possibilities.”

In a report, the County administration advised the committee to stay away from the venture, after a long process to free Rocky View from subsidizing the service ended in 2015.

“Administration is not supportive of the proposal,” the report read.

Since Rocky View stopped providing services to Muirfield, sewage from the subdivision has been trucked from a holding tank in Dalroy to treatment facilities in Strathmore.

A sewage transfer station sits across the road from Dalroy homes. Photo: County News archive.

 

For seven years, sewage from Muirfield was piped to a holding tank in Dalroy, from where it was trucked ending up in Rocky View’s wastewater treatment plant in Langdon. Costs were higher than what Rocky View received in payment for the service.

Administration’s report informed councillors meeting as members of the Policy and Priorities Committee (PPC) that Rocky View spent over $1.7 million subsidizing the servicing of the Lakes of Muirfield from 2008 to 2015.

In 2007, Rocky View council approved servicing Muirfield on promises that provincial grants were going to be obtained if the County became a regional service provider. Such grants, however, failed to materialize, and a second phase consisting in a transmission line from Dalroy to the Langdon treatment plant was not built, forcing sewage to be hauled by truck.

The PPC is made up of all nine Rocky View councillors. It investigates complex issues and provides recommendations for Council’s approval..

On Dec. 6, 2016, the PPC heard a presentation of Jim Souza, project manager for the Lakes of Muirfield.

Souza said his presentation was prompted by a call from Kendall.

“In 2015 I received a call—no secret—from Coun. Kendall,” Souza told the committee. “I was surprised…but as we started talking with Coun. Kendall he started to make sense.”

“He asked me to come here today and make a presentation.”

Souza told the committee that the existing Dalroy pipe could be connected to the main pipe running from Balzac to Langdon.

In its 2007 offsite levy bylaw, Rocky View had estimated lift stations and an 18-km-long pipe connecting Dalroy to the Langdon wastewater treatment plant would cost $18 million. Construction of this second phase never took place, forcing the trucking of sewage being piped to Dalroy.

Bahcheli said all the financial factors and tax implications should be presented and carefully weighed during discussion.

“If we need to…fund growth in another county we can do it but I find that it is just a continuing waste of resources by this administration and taxpayers’ money,” she said.

Coun. Jerry Arshinoff proposed Kendall to include in his motion information on the financial implications of the initiative and an updated business case for the utilities system.

“Muirfield did not pay its share of the required services in the past,” said Arshinoff. “So, this is not a money maker.”

Kendall, however, rejected the idea, prompting Arshinoff to formally submit his proposed addition to a vote of the committee.

Coun. Eric Lowther opposed Arshinoff’s proposed addition.

“I think the motion by Coun. Arshinoff is superfluous,” he said. “I don’t really see the need for this motion.”

Coun. Margaret Bahcheli spoke in support of the proposed addition.

“Let’s treat it as a business,” she said. “This is critical if we are going to have a decision at the end of the day.”

Arshinoff’s motion passed, after which Kendall’s amended motion was approved.

Council workshops are not open to the public.

Opinion: Decision ignores safe access, residents’ concerns

(Editor’s note) On Jan. 24, the council of Rocky View County granted a 160-acre land redesignation to a movie production facility in west Rocky View in disregard of an administration’s recommendation to withhold the decision pending submission of an engineering report on how to provide the site with safe access.

By Jerry Arshinoff
Councillor, Rocky View, Div. 2

Once the Jan. 24 public hearing was closed and Council was about to vote, I did think Option 2 (as recommended by staff) would carry the day.

I thought then it was a perfectly fair and reasonable recommendation as it did not favour those for or against – rather it was an attempt to determine the extent of the problem after which Council and admin would decide what to do about it.

The only reason I “thought” (as opposed to being totally convinced) that Option 2 would be chosen was because earlier in the public hearing Coun. Lowther had recused himself  for recommending Option 3 before all sides had presented their case. That concerned me as it seems that more often than not the Council majority of which Lowther is part vote the same way.

In my opinion, the Jan. 24 public hearing had four major problems:

  1. Option 1 (immediate redesignation of 40 acres with no immediate obligation of the applicant to present a plan to fix the road access) would have been bad enough. However, the eventually chosen Option 3 was beyond belief. I am unaware of any other case when an applicant’s request was not only approved, but approved on the basis of an administration-given option that granted far more to the applicant than the applicant had requested. As far as I know, this was unprecedented. Furthermore, I do not know whether doing so is legal.
  2. The essence of the matter was the condition, possible danger, dust and traffic volume on Twp. Rd. 242. However, during the public hearing, the access to the film production facility was only discussed as a secondary matter. Instead, many Council members stated how good it’s to have a facility where movies and TV programs are filmed, to which everyone, including all those in opposition to the application agreed. No resident expressed any opposition to a film industry or to this particular location – quite the opposite – everyone expressed strong support, including me.
  3. It should be noted various Council members did say they would invite the public to speak when the applicant comes forward to request a development permit. At that time, the issue of what to do, if anything, about Twp. Rd. 242 would be fully discussed. Ordinarily the public does not speak when Council considers approving a development permit. This rang as the ultimate empty promise. Why? Because there is no compulsion on the applicant’s part to come forward with a development permit application soon or at any given time. It could be years – if ever – by which time Rocky View could (and hopefully will) have a far different Council that would not be bound by this Council’s “promises.” In any event, the movie set has existed for over 30 years without Rocky View requesting it to apply for a development permit.
  4. During the Jan. 24 public hearing, a resident said years ago Rocky View had advised her that, to build a home on Twp. Rd. 242 she would have to construct approximately 1 kilometre of road at her own expense. She wondered whether different criteria for road safety are being applied. While I cannot verify this claim’s accuracy, it was not disputed at the hearing. Additionally a senior administrator stated traffic counts on Twp. Rd. 242 have increased, at times to nearly 800 vehicle trips on one single day and that such traffic volumes require road improvement.  It is beyond me to understand how Council could disregard claims from a resident and a senior member of administration.

At the public hearing, residents went to great lengths to explain their support for the administration’s recommendation to request an assessment of Twp. Rd. 242 and its intersection with Highway 22 before granting a change in land use. Some included very detailed maps and diagrams. Two residents presented videos, even though Council declined a request to have one of those videos shown at the public hearing.

“There is no compulsion on the applicant’s part to come forward with a development permit application” Coun. Jerry Arshinoff

Nevertheless, it is proper for each Council member to make his or her own decision on each and every issue and to not necessarily accept or agree with any person’s or persons’ perspective (s). That is how it should be.

And while the Reeve speaks for all Council, with all due respect, I found his comments at the closing of the public hearing to be offensive to all those in opposition – literally a case of adding insult to injury. I must say that those remarks are not in any way reflective of my own thoughts.

County News questions to Rocky View

By Enrique Massot
County News Online

(Editor’s note): Facing a seven-month blackout from Rocky View County and Reeve Greg Boehlke’s recent refusal to take questions, the CountyNewsOnline.ca has sent, on Feb. 11, some questions to all council members in an effort to obtain clarification about an unusual procedure on a Jan. 24 land redesignation in which council voted for a non-recommended motion that was written in advance of a public hearing on the matter. The text of the message is as follows:

To the attention of: Rocky View County Councillors:

The County News Online (TCN) would like to ask some questions about procedural matters regarding a 160-acre land redesignation granted to CL Western Town and Backlot on Jan. 24.

Answers received will be published in the County News Online without editing. Deadline is Feb. 14 by end of business day.

The same questions have been submitted to Rocky View administration.

On Jan. 24, Rocky View granted a 160-acre land redesignation to Direct Control to CL Western Town and Backlot.

Municipal planners had recommended Option 2.

Council voted in support of Option 3, as included in an administrative report to council (Item C-1, page 1 of 104).

TCN questions are:

  • How Option 3 came to be prepared in advance and included in the Staff report, long before the related public hearing? Usually, a motion departing from an administrative recommendation is prepared by a council member, sometimes with staff assistance, after public submissions have been heard and a related public hearing has been closed.
  • Who instructed Rocky View planners to prepare a motion granting immediate land redesignation, in opposition to their recommendation to postopone the said redesignation? Council, of course, has latitude to depart from staff recommendations, but such a step is usually taken after submissions from the applicant and members of the public have been heard.
  • Who knew, prior to the public hearing, that the applicant would support redesignation of 160 acres instead of the 40 acres she had applied for originally? Who instructed Rocky View planners to include the four-fold increase in Option 3, again, in advance of the public hearing?

BACKGROUND

The staff report included in the Jan. 24 agenda, Item C-1, presented four options to Council:

Option 1 (not recommended by staff) granted redesignation to Direct Control of 40 acres as applied by CL Western Town as noted in the Staff report on C-1, page 3 of 104:

“The Applicant proposes to redesignate (40 acres)…while leaving the remaining (120 acres) as Ranch and Farm District where ranching will continue to occur.” 

Option 2 on C-1, page 6 of 104, (recommended by staff) tabled (postponed) a decision on land redesignation pending submission of:

  1. a detailed access plan;
  2. a Traffic Impact and Intersection Assessment; and
  3. demonstrate that the proposed business use will minimize adverse impacts on existing residential, business, or agricultural uses.

Staff did provide a rationale for their recommendation, as shown on C-1, page 4 of 104:

“…based on the complexities associated with the application (access, traffic, enforcement and Alberta Transportation), Administration is of the view that these items must be addressed to adequately demonstrate that the off-site impacts can be reasonably mitigated... (Emphasis as in the original).”

C-1, page 5 of 104:

“With respect to access, there are multiple landowners involved, concerns expressed by adjacent landowners, enforcement matters to consider, and the stated interest of Alberta Transportation as the development impacts the intersection of Highway 22 and Township Road 242.”

Option 3, C-1, page 6 of 104, (not recommended by staff) included:

  1. Immediate redesignation to Direct Control
  2. Increased redesignation size, to 160 acres from 40 acres,
  3. Additional provisions regarding building setbacks and height, stripping and grading, and general formatting.

Option 4, C-1, page 6 of 104, (not recommended by staff): refusal.

Thanks in advance,

Enrique Massot, publisher

CountyNewsOnline.ca

Opinion: Rocky View residents are all equal—but some are more equal

By Enrique Massot
The County News Online

Granting land use for a movie production facility could very well be remembered as one of the worst decisions of the current council.

The Jan. 24 decision blatantly benefited a private party—CL Western Town and Backlot—to the detriment of the public interest.

In its decision, council disregarded a recommendation by the County administration (Option 2) which only Coun. Jerry Arshinoff—who cast the lone vote in opposition—found reasonable.

“Option 2…does not favour the applicant, does not favour those in opposition,” Arshinoff said. “It’s a matter of everybody knowing just what needs to be done.”

The CL Western Town as depicted in the Rocky View staff report to council.

 

Option 2 recommended council to withhold approval of land use to CL Western Town until an engineering report recommending measures achieving a safe access road to the facility.

Who directed planners to write Option 3 in advance?

Because granting a change in land use is the most important and irreversible decision council can grant, withholding it would have allowed prompt compliance by the business.

Council chose instead Option 3—an option written in advance in the staff report that granted land use immediately to CL Western Town and deferred road matters to a development permit to be submitted in the future.

Writing an alternative option in advance of the public hearing is highly unusual, as council listens to all submissions before making up its mind and crafting any changes to the recommended option.

No matter—early in the process councillors hinted interest for Option 3—but none as much as Coun. Eric Lowther, who called on his peers to vote for that option so early in the process (none in favour or against had yet spoken) that the chair had to rule him biased and exclude him from discussion and subsequent vote on the matter.

Option 1 granted immediate approval of rezoning 40 acres of ranch and farm land to direct control, allowing the facility to operate, while Option 4 was refusal of the application.

The decision to grant land use could significantly delay eventual road improvements—something residents living near or on Township Road 242, a substandard gravel road with a blind spot at the top of a hill at the intersection with Range Road 43, are anxiously waiting for.

Seven of those residents were represented at the public hearing by a planning consultant, while others spoke themselves. None opposed the CL Western Town in itself—but all wanted Twp. Rd. 242 to be improved if used by the many vehicles participating in movie shootings.

Arshinoff reminded council that CL Western Town was not asking permission for a future facility, but one that has been operating for three decades without being in compliance and where over 40 films and television series have been shot.

Not only that—Option 3 increased the amount of land to be rezoned as direct control to 160 acres—from 40 acres, as applied by CL Western Town. Land rezoning is a permanent decision, cannot be appealed, and as a result is not a decision to be taken lightly. Here, the four-fold increase was granted as an afterthought.

Who directed County staff to make them write Option 3 in advance of the public hearing?

Who suggested increasing the land rezoning four-fold?

In a stark demonstration of contempt for the residents, Reeve Greg Boehlke regretted putting CL Western Town representatives through a long public hearing.

“I feel that we used a sledgehammer here to kill a bug,” said Boehlke. “I congratulate the Copithornes for their patience and for your diligence.”

Boehlke had no words for the residents and their road safety concerns, but expressed jubilation for the decision.

“Your request has been granted. Praise the Lord,” he told the Copithornes.

An audio recording of council’s discussion is available at Rocky View County’s website.

The debate on the CL Western Town application runs from hour 1 and 3 minutes to hour 4 and 22 minutes.

Boehlke’s final statements can be hear from hour 4 and 19 minutes.

More residents support fiscal prudence

Updated tally on debt repayment support

By Jerry Arshinoff
Councillor, Rocky View County Div. 2

Additional answers to my question on how to allocate $1 million surplus confirmed that most residents want Rocky View to pay down its long-term debt.

As of Feb. 6 morning, 130 out of 141 residents had expressed their preference to use the County’s 2017 budget surplus to reduce the debt.

This amounts to 95.9 per cent of responses in support of fiscal prudence.

Five respondents did not specify preferences but made comments on various matters.

Of those:

  • Three referred to the undemocratic nature of Rocky View
  • One referred to the provincial debt
  • One excellent comment (my opinion) spoke about the general nature of municipal budgets, balance sheets and short and long-term debt.

The details:

RESPONSE OPTION SUPPORTED PERCENTAGE
130.5 Pay down debt 95.9
1 Flooding problems 0.74
2 Recreation needs 1.48
0.5 Half to go to debt

Half to pay severance to certain RV people on condition they’ll stay away. I won’t identify suggested individuals.

0.36

Note 1:

A significant number of responses identifying debt as their number one priority also included comments on the need for:

  • More policing
  • Recreation
  • Solutions to flooding and/or infrastructure

Note 2:

By the end of Feb. 6, I received another six responses that aren’t included (I don’t want to go back and count and I don’t want to redo the percentages).

Of those six:

Five favour debt repayment

One favours debt repayment minus whatever the cost would be for a Voters’ List.

 

Residents value fiscal prudence: Councillor

By Jerry Arshinoff
Councillor, Rocky View Div. 2

Residents’ answers to yesterday’s resident update

Question to residents: How to use $1 million budget surplus for the current year?

As of 4:37 a.m. this morning – a 12 hour period, 71 residents had expressed their preferences:

  • 68 residents (95.8%) – pay down debt
  • residents (1.4%) – flooding problems
  • residents (1.4%) – recreation needs
  • residents (1.4%) – enhanced policing

I fully realize flooding, recreation and policing need significant additional funding (as do roads and intersections although that has not yet been mentioned).

We must also keep in mind:

  • There is an approximate $50,000 annual cost for interest on that “surplus” (rate varies from 4.115% to 5.25%)
  • A minimum of $1 million in taxpayer money goes towards paying the debt for the east Rocky View water and waste water system (Actually a lot more but $1 million minimum was legislated by Rocky View)
  • Funds that should have gone to recreation, roads and flooding went to the new municipal building (policing is a different matter)

Note 1: Not included in the above totals or percentages are an additional eight responses (as of 9:01 a.m. this morning).  All eight favour paying down debt.

Note 2: Quite a few respondents have asked specific questions about this or other matters, mostly pertaining to individual situations. I will respond but it may take a few days. Besides, this morning I’m going to visit a few kids and grandchildren and later this afternoon I’m going to watch Super Bowl.

Property Assessments

Many have complained their property assessments are far higher than current market value. This includes two residents who have stated independent real estate estimates are over $200,000 LESS than their assessed value. 

This is a huge issue. In our case (my wife Diane and I), assessed value has increased by over 9.5% in the last 2 years. My best guess is that our property value has decreased by 15% over that same 2 year period. That’s a guess as since we aren’t moving we have not had an independent assessment.

Most likely is if assessments were decreased the tax rate would increase as residents are ultimately responsible for paying for Council’s spending sprees.

In regard to property assessments, Rocky View states (below in red):

1) “Please note that the 2016 General Assessment has passed level 1 Audit test (this means the statistical requirements for the ASSET have been met) and the Assessment Roll has been prepared for the delivery process to the public.  ASSET stands for “Assessment Shared Services Environment” and is the provincial computerized system used for monitoring assessment characteristics, audit purposes and for education cost sharing throughout the Province. All municipalities are required to complete this process before declaring the Roll Open to the public. More testing will occur with the Auditor’s review later this year. (The second and third stage of testing is an annual process which occurs throughout the year) “

 2) “Assessment Open House (60-day inquiry process) beginning Feb 1st to April 2nd at the County Office”

3) “With the addition of approximately 190 residential lots (Harmony development) an over- supply of vacant lots now changes the residential vacant category average from 379,000 to 356,000 for this year.(a decrease of 6.2% for this category).”

4)  An analysis of local market data and new construction indicate that the total assessment increased by approximately 2.5%. “

5) Live growth is about 3.5% and inflationary growth is approximately -1.0 %.”

6)   Residential properties saw an upward market movement of approximately .5%. “

7) “Farm residences, on average increased by approximately 1% throughout most of the Eastern portion of the County and decreased by about 1% in the Western Region.”

Last year and this year I was told Councillors have no say on this matter. As a result, all inquiries must be directed to and only to the Assessment Dept.  (403-230- 1401).

 

Rocky View leaves residents in the dust

By Enrique Massot
The County News Online

Residents were disappointed by a Rocky View council decision to rezone land for a movie production facility without first requesting an engineering report on how to improve a substandard access.

“The County totally ignored the wish of the residents,” said Noel Wallace, who lives near Twp. Rd. 242.

Wallace, who recorded the video below, said Twp. Rd. 242, which provides access to the CL Western Town film production facility is narrow, with a steep hill, gets dusty and has no turning lanes at its intersection with Highway 22.

On Jan. 24, council held a public hearing on an application of Teresa Copithorne to change the agricultural use of 40 acres to direct control district, to make the movie production facility compliant.

However, Cophitorne walked away with a whole quarter section—four times more land redesignated, courtesy of council.

 

Decades-old movie set operated with no municipal permit

The CL Western Town, located about six miles west of Highway 22, has been used in the production of movies since the early 1970s without municipal approvals.

Planner Jessica Anderson said Rocky View began to receive traffic complaints two years ago.

“In 2015, the operations reached a threshold that brought the operation to the attention of enforcement,” she said.

General Manager Byron Riemann said traffic has increased in recent years on Twp. Rd. 242.

“We’ve seen counts from the 2014 time frame to 2016 that range from 17 vehicles per day to a high of 850 vehicles a day,” he said. “If we start seeing (such) volumes…then we need to…modify that road from its gravel standard to something higher.”

Twp. Rd. 242 near its intersection with Highway 22. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

Neighbours okay with movie set until access road change

Applicant Teresa Copithorne said CL Western Town used an access north connecting with Highway 1 at an interchange without neighbours complaints. Things changed when the operation began using Twp. Rd. 242 when it was opened a few years ago.

“And this is when the challenges began,” Copithorne said. “A handful of residents, and some non-resident landowners complained about an unusual amount of traffic.”

Cherie Copithorne-Barnes, CEO of CL Ranches, spoke in support of the applicant and said road assessments are too expensive.

“If we are asked to do our own traffic impact assessments, things become economically unfeasible,” she said.

Rocky View Forward supports Administration recommendation

Janet Ballantyne, of the group Rocky View Forward, said council should request a traffic impact assessment before granting a change in land use.

“It is important to evaluate (roads) and make sure one of them at least will work before you grant approval for a land-use,” she said.

If not, she added, “maybe you granted approval for the land use but the conclusion is, the traffic wont’ work so the business can’t operate.”

Anderson said the County Plan mandates that businesses outside areas designated for such uses must have safe, paved access.

“…the applicant should have direct and safe access to a paved County road or provincial highway, and provide a traffic impact and intersection assessment,” she said.

At its intersection with RR 43, Twp. Rd. 242 goes through a steep hill with poor sight lines. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

Double standard applied? Resident

Terril Shoults, who lives on RR 43 that intersects Twp. Rd. 242, said Rocky View told her in 2000 she would have to improve the road if she wanted to move a house onto her land.

“We were told by Rocky View we would have to bring Twp. Rd. 242, the section of road from RR 43 to RR 44, up to Rocky View standards as well as construct half a mile of road to the west end of our property to meet RV standards,” she said.

“So, if the road was not good enough for us 17 years ago, why does it meet Rocky View standards now?

Residents accept movie set but want road safety

However, Shoults, as the other residents who spoke at the hearing or sent letters, did not speak against the Western Town in itself and only asked for the access road improvements.

Bryan Romanesky of CityTrend urban planners spoke in representation of seven area landowners emphasized the lack of safety of Twp. Rd. 242.

“Even a portion just half a mile west of twp 242 deviates from the road alignment,” he said.

Council grants land use – defers request for road assessment

However, in the end area Coun. Liz Breakey spearheaded approval of non-recommended Option 3—which included deferring the request for a traffic impact assessment to a time when the owners apply for a development permit.

“We all learned a whole bunch about the need to work towards road and safety—and we will be doing that through the development permit,” she said.

However, Breakey also doubted Twp. Rd. 242 would be an unsafe road, citing Tom Benz, motion picture business agent for IATSE Local 212, who spoke at the hearing.

“Mr. Benz spoke to the fact that this road meets his union standards, that he obviously is the expert in the area for evaluating safety standards,” she said. “He wouldn’t let his people go on a road to conditions that were unsafe.”

The motion had been included in the staff report and granted direct control land use to 160 acres—four times more than Copithorne had applied—40 acres.

Breakey’s motion passed 7-1, with Coun. Jerry Arshinoff casting the lone vote in opposition.

Councillor shows bias–Reeve apologetic to facility owners

The nine-member council had lost Coun. Eric Lowther early in the process when the Bearspaw representative showed support for Option 3 early in the public hearing—when councillors are supposed to be neutral.

Boehlke sounded apologetic for having put the applicants through a long public hearing and said council could have just amended the land use bylaw.

“If you talk about discouraging business from coming to your municipality, here it is,” he said. “I congratulate the Copithornes for their patience.”

 

 

How to spend Rocky View’s “Surplus”

By Jerry Arshinoff
Councillor, Rocky View County Div. 2

You may have heard Council boasting about Rocky View’s “surplus” of approximately $1 million ($1,074,900 to be precise). Unlike most other municipalities that discuss such matters in public, the Rocky View Council will consider how to spend it—in a closed door (public not allowed) County Manager’s Workshop.
 
Keep in mind this “surplus” isn’t a surplus. In reality, the “surplus” is borrowed money. Presumably this is to show you, the voter, how brilliantly Council acts as steward of your money. I’m not sure how they expect you to believe it , especially since you probably just received your tax assessment  and may be wondering why Council’s constant claim that huge developments are forever paying much higher percentages of RV’s total tax requirements isn’t reflected in your own property tax.
 .
It is my intention to advocate for using the “surplus” to pay down that debt.  However I would like to hear from you if you are aware of any pressing need that we have NOT discussed in person, in a meeting, by email or on the phone.
.
My definite opinion is RV must pay down (and certainly not increase) the debt but before I advocate for doing so with the “surplus” I would like your opinion.
 .
Coun. Arshinoff’s contact:

Gravel and people don’t mix: Resident

By Enrique Massot
The County News

Densely populated areas such as Bearspaw should be off-limits to gravel extraction operations, a member of a community group said Saturday.

“If we can get a County-wide policy that is good for the less densely populated parts of the County…it will by default be good for the people in Bearspaw,” said Janet Ballantyne, a member of Rocky View Gravel Watch.

Coun. Eric Lowther speaks at a community meeting he hosted in Bearspaw. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

Ballantyne, who is also a member of the residents’ group Rocky View Forward, spoke Jan. 28 at a community meeting hosted by Rocky View’s Div. 8 Coun. Eric Lowther attended by about 80 residents.

Gravel Watch supports 800-metre buffers between property lines of gravel pits and that of occupied residences—and 1,500 metres separation between homes and noisy equipment such as gravel crushers and asphalt plants.

Such setback distances are the same as that in Lac Ste. Anne, a County of 10,000 in central Alberta. However, Rocky View‘s has higher population densities than Lac Ste. Anne.

 

As a result, said Ballantyne, those setbacks should be considered absolute minimums.

In addition, she told the County News, “Rocky View faces much harsher conditions – windier, drier, shorter growing season – all of which makes mitigation harder.”

Rocky View’s proposed Aggregate Resource Plan (ARP) proposes 500-metre buffers between gravel pits’ noisy equipment and residences, and 100 metres between a pit property line and homes. The plan does not contain restricted areas, allowing gravel pits to locate anywhere in the County.

The County released a draft ARP mid-December, and held four open houses in January to explain its proposed policy and gather feedback.

 

The proposed setback distances and other parts of the draft caused significant public concern, leading to tough questioning during a second open house in Springbank, to which the County responded by cancelling public presentations and Q&A sessions in the last two open houses, where residents were allowed questions and one-on-one conversations with County staff.

Long-time resident Mike Edwards said the drafting of the policy started on the wrong foot with the hiring of a consultant that, as the community found out later, had strong ties with the gravel industry and is a member of the Alberta Sand and Gravel Association.

At some point in the process, the County distanced itself from Golder Associates.

The County has set Feb. 24 as the closing day to receive public input. After that date, Staff members will review the draft plan in light of the feedback.

“I am told it will be a substantial re-drafting,” said Lowther.

Ballantyne credited strong resident participation in meetings and open houses, and through providing written input to the County.

“We are in a much better place because people started to speak,” she said.

A final draft will be released in April for public review before being presented to Council for consideration and eventual approval.

Ballantyne said Gravel Watch’s proposed setback distances could be relaxed if all affected neighbours agree.

“The industry said those setbacks will sterilize too much territory, but as long as all residents agree those distances may be relaxed,” she added.

That requirement, she said, would help residents to negotiate additional conditions with the industry.

However, conditions would need consistent monitoring and enforcement.

“We should make sure standards are enforceable,” Ballantyne said. “So that people will be protected.”