By Enrique Massot
The County News Online
Why would some members of the Rocky View Council, supposed to represent the constituents, be determined to ignore technical advice, the wishes of the Langdon community and the County’s own planning policies?
On May 10, area Coun. Rolly Ashdown made a last-minute attempt to significantly expand the Langdon area structure plan (ASP), from what had been proposed by County planners.
Ashdown’s motion failed by the smallest possible margin: A tie vote of the eight councillors present. Reeve Greg Boehlke; Deputy Reeve Earl Solberg and Coun. Eric Lowther saw it appropriate to support Ashdown’s proposed amendment.
Coun. Margaret Bahcheli was absent due to a family matter.
Lowther also made a motion attempting to accomplish a similar effect to an ASP expansion—it failed 5-3, with Boehlke jumping to the opposing side this time.
The outcome prompted both Boehlke and Ashdown to blame County planners for not following Council’s “strict instructions” and for calling in a lawyer to assist Council on legal ASP matters—something akin to blame staff for doing their job. (More on those “instructions” in a follow-up report).
The four councillors supporting expanding the ASP argued planners had not followed closely enough a report commissioned to inform the ASP.
County planners Amy Zaluski and Meghan Norman repeatedly explained the process during March 8, March 22 and May 10 deliberations.
They noted they drafted the plan taking into account the residents’ desire to keep the hamlet’s rural character established through a survey of each of the hamlet’s 1,600 residences, five open houses, two online surveys, and meetings with landowners and stakeholders.
The result was a draft ASP allowing moderated residential and commercial hamlet growth to a population of about 13,000 over 1,100 acres and where development is to occur over a period of 10 to 25 years.
But Ashdown, Boehlke, Lowther and Solberg were unhappy. They wanted to expand the ASP to encompass 5,000 acres, with capacity for 33,000 new residents.
The planners noted they had considered Weed Lake’s limited capacity to receive stormwater and the capacity of the local wastewater treatment plant to service 8,400 residents maximum.
They had also considered Rocky View’s main planning document—the County Plan—several engineering studies and a local committee’s recommendations.
That was all the planners could do: after submitting the draft plan, it’s up to Council to decide on any changes.
Which brings us to the original question: Why would the area councillor be so intent in fundamentally altering a plan at the eleventh hour, in total disregard for his community’s wishes and a process that extended for over a year? Why would, in their wisdom, three additional councillors believe it to be a reasonable, prudent option?
The only possible answer is, they were interested in fostering interests that are not those of the public.
Which would be nice were not that members of Council are supposed to represent the interests of the residents who elect them—and pay their wages.
(Editor’s note): Reeve Greg Boehlke and Coun. Rolly Ashdown made statements just before the final, unanimous vote that adopted the Langdon area structure plan on May 10. Here are both statements:
Coun. Rolly Ashdown’s closing statement
“I don’t like this ASP. I do not like hardly anything about it (sic). I don’t like the process. I don’t like the fact that people didn’t follow strict instructions that Council gave. I don’t like the idea that (the ASP) does not have appropriate phasing. I don’t like the concept that adds up to 13,400 people but it’s over the next 20 years. I don’t like so much about it it’s shocking, but there is no way I am going to hold up people in Langdon from having an ASP, and I do recognize that I suppose if we have a different day and we have different concepts and different ideas and different acceptances that we can also make amendments to it, it will. I heard that it is a living document and I accept that it’s what it is, and as a living document I believe I am going to be part of putting casts on all the broken pieces over the next little while.”
Reeve Greg Boehlke’s closing statement
“I am going to support it dragging my feet. I really, really think we need to start looking at our process here. This little ASP has taken way, way too much time and controversy whether it’s the process at the start, or the finish, or here, there is something dramatically wrong with our process. When people in the community come in and speak against something and yet say that the plan is a good plan but they need some changes and we resist that with every bit of might that we have including bringing the lawyer twice, I find that offensive. So I am going to support it to help the neighbourhood get through, but it won’t happen again.”