Residents hate it–Council approves it

A Cochrane Eagle article has captured the contradictions of Rocky View County’s latest large development approval.

Under the headline “Council applauds Glenbow Ranch ASP, residents oppose,” reporter Lindsay Seewalt quotes several parties expressing opinion on the approval of the ASP, which would allow for over 5,000 houses to be built on what today is ranch land located atop the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, between the City of Calgary and the Town of Cochrane.

To read the Cochrane Eagle’s article, click here.

Glenbow Ranch development plan clears first hurdle

By Enrique Massot
The County News

A controversial plan to develop housing for nearly 16,000 people atop a provincial park got its  foot in the door on April 25.

After a 10-hour public hearing and debate, Rocky View granted first reading to the Glenbow Ranch area structure plan on a 7-2 vote.

Area councillor Eric Lowther, however, wants council to consider reducing density in two areas of the large plan, which stretches from the City of Calgary to the Town of Cochrane, between Highway 1A and the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park.

Council agreed to consider potential amendments to reduce density in area “I” of the plan to two residential units per acre (upa), from 2.4 upa, as well as in area “J,” to one and two unites per acre from 3 upa.

County planners will prepare a report on the implications of the changes and submit recommendations to council on June 27.

The County News will publish more details on this topic.

 

Opinion: Planning madness could sacrifice valuable ranching land

By Enrique Massot
The County News

Rocky View’s plans to greenlight a population of 15,000 in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas of the Calgary region could become a showcase of reckless decisions.

How on Earth the Glenbow Ranch area structure plan has made thus far—it’s going to be submitted for council’s consideration on Tuesday April 25—is nothing short of astonishing.

Breaking a significant piece of perfectly functional ranchland to make room for thousands of houses will forever destroy the natural balance of lands atop the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park in the name of private profits.

Particularly galling is the original argument that a non-profit foundation supposedly formed to support the provincial park has been voicing for years: the park needs people.

The alluring landscape of Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park and adjacent ranching lands is also a fragile environment. Photo: Enrique Massot

Andy Crooks, chairman of the Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation, has stated such vision in the foundation’s website, expressing hopes that the park would become “one of the great urban parks of North America.”

“As urban development surrounded them, they became featured landmarks and great urban open spaces. Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park offers the same opportunity,” wrote Crooks, who in addition to head the Foundation wears the hats of legal counsel for the Harvie family and founder director of the developer group Rocky View 2020.

Currently, the park occupies the lower part of the lands located between the Bow River and Highway 1A, between Calgary and Cochrane.

The upper part of the lands, according to Crooks, should be developed as residential to “help the park.”

Really. Why on earth would a natural park needs houses around?  The fact that Fish Creek became surrounded by Calgary sprawling subdivisions hasn’t helped wildlife movements in and out of the park. If increased stormwater cascading from thousands of roofs, paved roads and driveways is not well managed in the planned development, the consequences for the park downhill and the Bow River could be disastrous.

The County Plan, approved in 2013 with unprecedented resident support, calls for moderate growth and has designated 17 areas as development priority zones where all sorts of development types can be safely considered: Country residential, concentrated hamlet housing, commercial, industrial, highway business, etc.

Those 17 areas have revealed insufficient to the current council, which has been recommended to amend the plan to add an 18th one: the Glenbow Ranch ASP area.

And planners are calling it a “minor amendment.”

In addition, the Bearspaw area structure (BASP) designated the Glenbow Ranch lands as priority 4—the last one. Not only that. In its wisdom, the council in place in 1994 decided those lands should remain agricultural, a fact omitted in the current administration’s report.

This map included in the Bearspaw area structure plan shows in green the lands slated to remain agricultural with the exception of lands to the east depicted in blue, slated for low-density country residential. (Click twice to enlarge).

 

Why these lands were not supposed to be developed? Because of their challenging topography—most of these lands are part of a large sloping area that goes from the top of the old Bow River ridge along Highway 1A and slope towards the Bow River, undercut by deep coulees carved out by storm water running to the river for centuries.

The Made-in-Rocky View solution? Easy. An amendment to the plan, and those lands will be taken out of the BASP and designated for development—right now. Once those pesky County Plan and BASP are out of the way, everybody should be happy and the party can begin.

One could believe that a reason for challenging both the City of Calgary and the Town of Cochrane is because a pot of gold is waiting at the end of the rainbow in the form of a windfall of tax revenue.

One would then be mistaken.

County administrators did run a fiscal impact analysis (not included in the report) that concluded this large development will provide a “small positive impact on the County’s future tax rates.” (Citizens are left to guess what “small” may mean).

Another drawback of a large residential plan such as Glenbow Ranch is a setback of the County’s goal to improve the residential to non-residential ratio.

The County has justified borrowing money to build water and sewage infrastructure with the need to expand the non-residential tax base.

Well—approving the Glenbow Ranch will again throw out any improvement made in recent years.

Administrators found that the approval of Glenbow Ranch is going to have “a negative impact to the assessment ratio goal.”

Nobody could take away the gesture of the members of a ranching family who gifted the Province of Alberta and generations to come by selling, for less than market value, a large piece of their land so that the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park could be created.

The Harvie siblings that sold to the province 3,246 acres of their ranch land in 2006 are now supporters of the development plan, which encompasses a good part of their remaining lands.

However, who could blame Katie Harvie, Carol Raymond, Pauli Smith and Tim Harvie for trying the best for themselves and their families?

After all, securing a municipal approval will exponentially increase their land holdings’ value.

Citizens should not judge too harshly either the planners who have stretched every related policy and every planning concept to come up with a recommendation to approve this planning aberration. After all, they are employees following orders.

Another matter is the nine members of the municipal council, who are elected and paid to make the best possible decisions on behalf of the residents.

And while citizens could not expect the best possible judgement all the time, there is a reasonable expectation that the majority will come up with decisions that, at the very least, avoid harm on the municipality and the welfare of residents.

Residents are given an opportunity to choose their best representatives—only one every four years. That’s why October 16 is a key date.

Rocky View admits private interest role in Glenbow Ranch development  

By Enrique Massot
The County News

 In an unprecedented admission, Rocky View has cited landowners’ pressure as a factor in the decision to create the Glenbow Ranch area structure plan (GRASP).

“…over the past decade, there has been significant pressure from Landowners throughout the Plan area,” wrote County planners in a report to council.

In comments about the GRASP, Town of Cochrane administrators questioned Rocky View’s use of the “development pressure” term in support of planning housing for nearly 16,000 persons on lands atop the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park.

Much of the lands encompassed by the Glenbow Ranch ASP are made up of deep coulees and steep hills. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

“This area is not subject to development pressure from Calgary or Cochrane, and has historically experienced little to no development pressure,” Town planners noted, calling Rocky View use of the development pressure term “misleading.”

In response, Rocky View administrators admitted that the development pressure originated from area private landowners.

“The development history has been restricted to three areas of country residential development: Coyote Valley, Glenview Rd., and Mountain View Rd.,” they wrote. “However, over the past decade, there has been significant pressure from Landowners throughout the Plan area who have expressed interest in higher density development.”

Other reasons planners cited in support of approval of the GRASP are the age of the Bearspaw area structure plan, increased demand for smaller lots, the creation of the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, growth of Calgary and Cochrane, and direction from the municipal development plan—the County Plan.

The exchange of comments can be read on page 101 of the C-3 report in which planners recommend council to approve the GRASP after a public hearing to be held on Tuesday, April 25.

Cattle grazing on the Glenbow Ranch area structure plan land. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

Rocky View has often used the term “development pressure” on recommendations for development approvals and in planning documents. However, municipalities do not – at least officially – recognize financial rewards resulting from redesignation of farmland into residential as valid land-use arguments.

Most of those who wrote to the County in support of approval of the GRASP own land encompassed by the plan, which is located on lands uphill of the Glenbow Provincial Park.

“I am a member of the Harvie Family. Working with the government of Alberta, we created the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park,” wrote Tim Harvie, who owns land adjacent to the Park and is also a director of the Glenbow Park Foundation.

“I want to see the Park protected and preserved and believe the ASP…is paramount in achieving that goal,” he added.

Several members of the Glenbow Park Foundation also sent letters in support of GRASP.

“I am a Steward of Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation, and as such am very concerned with the way that development is managed adjacent to the Park,” wrote Gerald Kuill of Calgary. “It is important…to protect and enhance Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park by…buffering the Park from development.”

The Foundation co-funded early technical studies and lobbied for development around the park as early as 2010, as revealed in an Andy Crooks letter.

Lands in the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park include areas prone to erosion. Photo: County News archive.

 

Twenty-two residents submitted letters in opposition to GRASP.

West Rocky View resident Joe Doolan wrote that overlooking urban-type infrastructure for area development would require specialized, professional staffing.

“What will be the cost to ratepayers to add the requisite assets and skills?” he asked. “There are numerous examples where (Rocky View) has botched much smaller, less complicated developments than this one.”

“This is…a blatant attempt by the landowners to monetize their lands.”

Bearspaw resident Darrin Durda expressed concern about storm water management.

“The county has not had a good track record on this issue,” he wrote. “GRASP is a sensitive environmental area and sits on top of an even more environmentally sensitive area in the provincial park.”

“It would be the 5th largest town in Alberta.” Joseph and Gwen Carson.

Resident Janet Ballantyne disputed the County’s claim that the proposed development plan will conserve agricultural land in line with the provincially-enacted South Saskatchewan Regional Plan encompassing the Calgary region.

“The majority of the land within GRASP is currently unfragmented agricultural land,” she wrote. “Proposing to put 15,800 new residents…does not minimize the fragmentation or conversion of agricultural land into residential.”

Residents Joseph and Gwen Carson worried about the complexities of providing water and sewer infrastructure to part of the plan area.

“If approved it would be the 5th largest town in Alberta,” wrote Joseph and Gwen Carson. “Should an accident or technical failure happen it could be catastrophic for those downstream (Calgary) and equally catastrophic for the taxpayers of RVC with the inevitable liability issues.”

However, Curtis Norman and Braden Norman, who identified themselves as members of the Harvie family and of Glenbow Ranching 2012 Ltd., supported the plan.

“I wish to go on record as fully supporting Glenbow Ranch ASP and request in the strongest possible terms that the Council approves the plan,” they wrote in two identical letters.

“The Glenbow Ranch Area Structure Plan policies provide for a creative, comprehensive structured planning area that protects and enhances the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, its ongoing ranching operations and its landscape,” wrote Gordon Spanier, who owns lands in the plan area.

“To see the Park protected and preserved (GRASP) is paramount.” Tim Harvie

Robert Weston, planning consultant for Bridgebank Development owning lands encompassed by GRASP also supported approval of the plan.

“I have attended the open houses, had meetings with planning staff and provided written comments,” noted Weston. “I look forward to working with Bridgebank and Rocky View County once the plan is approved and implemented.”

The City of Calgary opposes approval of the GRASP and submitted numerous objections in response to circulations of two plan drafts, which were summarized in an April 5 letter from Mayor Naheed Nenshi on behalf of the City council.

It mentioned transit, transportation, recreation and water protection as areas of particular concern.

Nenshi contended the planned community of over 15,000 will not provide significant employment opportunities to its residents.

“To earn a living, Glenbow Ranch residents would be commuting to either the City or the Town of Cochrane,” he wrote. “This will add new users onto city roads making the commute longer for Calgary.”

In an April 12 letter, the Town of Cochrane also strongly objected to the Glenbow Ranch plan.

“We note that the County Plan is being amended to recognize a ‘full-service hamlet’ within the Bearspaw area, when in fact, the proposed hamlet area is predominantly a single residential use, and is anything but a ‘full-service hamlet’ when compared to others within Rocky View County…” the letter stated.

The Glenbow Ranch area structure plan foresees the construction of approximately 5,263 homes for a population of about 15,700 residents on lands bounded by the City of Calgary, the Town of Cochrane, the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park and Highway 1A. A public hearing on the matter will begin at about 10 a.m. in Rocky View Council Chambers on Tuesday April 25. Members of the public wishing to speak to council on the matter must register their name with the County on arrival.

Rocky View firefighters to volunteer as scrutineers in October election

By Enrique Massot
The County News

Rocky View County firefighters are offering to assist candidates as scrutineers during the Oct. 16 municipal election.

Jeff Salkeld

“This is a good opportunity to help out,” said Jeff Salkeld, president of the Rocky View County Firefighters’ Association.

Salkeld said a recent refusal to create an electors’ register for Rocky View County prompted the association’s initiative.

“We read about that and we did not understand why it did not go forward,” he added.

The association will also hold a Scrutineer School on April 30, to which members of the public are invited. Those interested must RSVP by April 28 using contact information provided below.

“This will provide training and an overview on the political system as well as the responsibilities of the area,” said Salkeld. “Anybody who is interested should contact us.”

Between 20 and 30 firefighters have already committed to spend election day at a polling station, observing the conduct of the voting on behalf of candidates.

“We are looking at increasing that number to 40,” Salkeld said.

A scrutineer is a person who is at least 18 years of age and is appointed to represent a candidate at a given polling station.

Designated scrutineers are designated a place at the polling station where they can observe the proceedings. Candidates can have one scrutineer per polling station, but some may have difficulty finding trained volunteers—and that is where the firefighters’ offer may come handy.

Salkeld said the association, which is a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 4794, will remain neutral and would provide volunteer scrutineers to any candidate who requests it.

“We wouldn’t back any particular candidate,” he said.

The Scrutineer School will be held Sunday, April 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lunch will be provided. Interested members of the public must RSVP before April 28 at 8 a.m. to president@rvcffa.org

Councillor’s report: Glenbow Ranch plan coming to council April 25

By Jerry Arshinoff
Councillor, Div. 2 Springbank
Rocky View County
I am including four ​very ​noteworthy items in no particular order of importance​ – they’re all important​.
 

GRASP (Glenbow Ranch ASP)

The Glenbow Ranch area structure plan (ASP) will be before Council this Tuesday, April 25. It is scheduled to begin shortly after 10 a.m. If you have thoughts or concerns (positive or negative) you really should try to appear before Council and state your case. You will be given 5 minutes or 10 minutes if you are representing yourself and one or more other people.
The deadline for written submissions has passed. However, usually (note : “usually” – not always) Council does accept late written submissions. Submissions should be sent to  legislativeservices@rockyview.ca
Note: For me as a Council member, the single most important, although not the only factor in the determination of my vote for or against any matter is based on the expressed views of Rocky View residents. I do not know if the same does or does not hold true for other members of Council.
Additional information on GRASP​ can be found in:
CountyNewsOnline:
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Illegal Dumping

Please report garbage dumped in ditches, trees, etc at Rocky View Bylaw Enforcement.

I’m not blaming Calgary as they have their budgetary problems to worry about​.

Nevertheless​, I have noticed that whenever Calgary reduces the hours of operation at the garbage dumps or raises the fees at the dumps (apparently Calgary has recently done both) the amount of garbage that gets thrown in trees and ditches around here greatly increases. This is becoming a huge problem.
_________________________________________________________

​SR1 (Proposed Springbank Dam) ​

From the Calgary Herald:

_________________________________________________________

Gravel pit application approved despite major insufficiencies in plan

From: Rocky View Gravel Watch

(Rocky View Gravel Watch is comprised of a group of  concerned volunteer citizens). If you wish to receive their emails  and notifications (free) please submit your request to: rockyviewgravelwatch@gmail.com

On Tuesday, April 11 Council approved a gravel pit application.  Unfortunately, the voice of reason was not able to sway the majority on Council.  In a 5-4 decision, Reeve Boehlke and Councillors Solberg, Ashdown, Habberfield, and Lowther voted against Staff’s recommendation and ruled in favour of the applicant.

Staff had recommended refusal of the application as it was missing key technical reports required for all gravel pit applications under the County’s Master Site Development Plan (MSDP).  The application lacked a reclamation plan, a biophysical review and a cumulative impact study. It also failed to provide sufficient information on numerous other important areas. 

Because the lands were already zoned to allow for gravel pit operations, no public hearing was required.  Instead, the application was dealt with as “general business” on Council’s agenda.  General business items typically involve Administration making a report to Council, followed by questions and a discussion period from Councillors. The applicant doesn’t usually speak.

In this case, we had anticipated that the applicant’s representative, former RVC Reeve Larry Konschuk, would want to address Council to counter staff’s recommendation to refuse their application. So, to be pre-emptive and pro-active, Rocky View Gravel Watch, did the same and requested permission for Samanntha Wright to speak on the group’s behalf. 

Here are the details on the application and why we believe it should have been refused:

The application was to take over and expand a former County gravel pit whose remaining gravel was deemed unsuitable for the County’s road building needs.  The County was in the process of negotiating with the Provincial government regarding reclamation of the site when the applicant approached the landowner and the County with the proposal to take over the County’s lease on the land and extract the unmined gravel. This unknown reclamation liability greatly complicates the application as the County’s potential legal risks remain undetermined.

No one disputes that the pit is located in a logical area for a gravel pit. It is in a lightly populated area west of Beiseker where the surrounding parcels are owned by the same landowner.  However, a gravel pits’ location cannot be the sole factor used in determining whether an application is approved.  The need to follow process and perform due diligence should be paramount. This is the reasoning behind the reporting requirements in the MSDP – its intention is to allow Council to determine if the pit will operate according to County standards.

Ms. Wright raised concerns that the plan lacked detail on noise mitigation, failed to identify haul routes, provided no schedule for its phased operations, gave conflicting information about its hours of operation and had no plan for reclamation nor a biophysical review.  She also pointed out that, in light of recent concerns about the costs to the Province for reclaiming abandoned oil and gas wells, taking the applicant’s word that they will accept liability is insufficient.  There must be more than verbal assurances that this liability will not be passed on to County taxpayers.

Mr. Konschuk claimed that the application was missing key technical reports because County staff had improperly advised him about the requirements of an MSDP.  He stated that they were unaware of the need for a reclamation plan, yet he repeatedly stated that they were more than willing to post the minimum $250/acre bond required by the Province for reclamation.  Given Mr. Konschuk’s previous Council experience and the fact that the requirements for an MSDP are publicly available, we found this excuse lacked credibility.

Mr. Konschuk argued that they shouldn’t be expected to provide a reclamation plan since the County had already mined a portion of the parcel.  In rebuttal, County staff identified that the County had only mined about 35 per cent of the involved lands and had already reclaimed much of that land.  Somehow, Mr. Konschuk found it irrelevant that the applicant was planning to mine 100 per cent of the parcel and that its mining activities would bring the operation into much closer proximity to two identified wetlands for which stormwater studies had not been done.  He seemed to believe all that should be provided were assurances that the applicant intended to reclaim the land back to agricultural use when they were finished.

Ms. Wright pointed out that, according to the Province’s Guide to the Code of Pits, it is difficult to reclaim aggregate sites back to agricultural use if the pits mine below a certain depth as it removes vital filtration layers. Mr. Konschuk claimed this statement was false, although a simple reading of the Guide indicates otherwise.

Ms. Wright also asserted that approving this application just before the revised Aggregate Resource Plan (ARP) is released sets a bad precedent.  The County claims that it wants the ARP to provide clearer and tighter performance standards for aggregate operations in the County.  However, to approve such a seriously deficient application now sends the message that the County is not serious about improving monitoring and performance of aggregate operations.  It also risks giving the go-ahead to those applications that are currently on hold waiting for the ARP to be finalized.

The unknown risks of reclamation liability, on top of the clear deficiencies in the application along side the imminent release of the ARP were sufficient reasons to convince Councillors Breakey, Arshinoff, Bahcheli and Kendall to vote against the application.  Unfortunately, they were not enough for the majority to refuse the application.  The others (Boehlke, Solberg, Ashdown, Habberfield and Lowther) were apparently willing to push off all the decisions to the development permit stage, not knowing if the deficient MSDP application even contained sufficient information to provide an adequate guide for this latter stage.

To add insult to injury, after the vote, Reeve Boehlke attempted to pass additional motions that would have waived the applicant’s need to provide a biophysical review or a storm water management plan. Thankfully, those relaxations failed even though Councillors Solberg, Ashdown and Lowther each voted to allow one or both elements of the motion. The issue around whether to waive the Transportation Offsite levies was postponed to May 9.

If this decision is any indication of what is to come with the Aggregate Resource Plan, it does not bode well for County residents.  If the majority on Council is willing to turn a blind eye to such glaring deficiencies in this application, what will that translate into for broader gravel policy like the ARP?

Read more »

Tsuut’ina opposes Springank dam

In no uncertain terms, Tsuut’ina Nation is stating strong opposition to the construction of an anti-flood dam in Springbank.

In a Calgary Herald opinion column published April 15, Chief Lee Crowchild says no meaningful consultation took place with the Nation about how best mitigate catastrophic flooding events such as that of 2013.

The Elbow River during the 2013 floods viewed from Bragg Creek’s Balsam Avenue bridge. Photo: County News archive)

“In fact, the province made the decision to proceed with Springbank without a single meeting with Tsuut’ina,” he wrote.

Crowchild noted that choosing Springbank as the location for an anti-flood dam to protect the City of Calgary will leave Redwood Meadows, Bragg Creek and Tsuut’ina unprotected.

“McLean Creek offers more and better flood protection,” Crowchild stated. “McLean Creek will protect Calgary, Redwood Meadows, Bragg Creek and Tsuut’ina. Springbank will not.”

For Bragg Creek, this means construction of a complex system of earthen dykes, engineered retaining walls and bank protection as a way to mitigate future floods.

The Elbow River during the 2013 floods viewed from Bragg Creek’s Balsam Avenue bridge. Photo: County News archive.

 

In 2015, NDP candidate Rachel Notley campaigned against the then PC government’s choice of the Springbank project and declared support for a dam on Crown lands at McLean Creek, upstream of Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows, a townsite located on Tsuut’ina lands.

However, after Notley became premier, her government reviewed both projects and decided in favour of the Springbank option, which will require purchase or expropriation of over 3,600 acres of private land.

Residents look at a flooded Bragg Creek’s Balsam Avenue leading to the bridge over the Elbow River on June 20, 2013. Photo: County News archive.

 

“The Springbank Off-stream Reservoir and upstream local mitigation were chosen over the McLean Creek Dam because the Springbank option is less costly, will have less environmental impact, has shorter timelines, and will capture more runoff,” stated the government in its website.

Opposition to the Springbank option has also been expressed by Springbank residents and landowners and by Bragg Creek landowners as well.

 

 

 

Foundation invested in development studies

Four 2010 studies provided foundation for Glenbow Ranch ASP

By Enrique Massot
The County News

Long before the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park’s opening in 2011, a non-profit organization was actively lobbying for development around the park.

“Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park needs development,” wrote Andy Crooks in an Oct. 8, 2010 letter. “We therefore encourage immediate population growth.”

Crooks is chairman of the Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation, formed to support park programs in partnership with the provincial government.

In his letter to Stan Church, at the time chair of the Reeve’s Task Force for Growth Planning, Crooks also noted the foundation financed studies to guide high-density development under a revised Bearspaw area structure plan.

Andy Crooks, chairman of the Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation, speaks to residents at an April 3 Bearspaw open house. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

“Our Foundation cofounded three high-level engineering studies (and) paid 60% of the costs,” wrote Crooks. “These included a Functional Transportation Study for Highway 1A; a Water and Wastewater study; and a Stormwater Management Study.”

According to Crooks’ letter, Rocky View paid the remaining 40 per cent of the cost of the studies.

Crooks’ letter was part of the public input submitted to the Task Force and was obtained by the County News through a Freedom of Information request. Click on the link to read Andy Crooks letter full text.

Foundation member Tim Harvie said questions should be addressed to Crooks.

“He chairs our foundation,” he said “I am just a board member.”

On April 3, Crooks was unable to say how much the foundation paid for the studies but said would provide figures at a later date.

Rocky View was unable to immediately provide the amounts paid for CDS and Glenbow Ranch ASP studies.

Communications Manager Grant Kaiser said the County could not provide that information through a media question and advised a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) would be necessary.

An April 3 open house board shows the dimensions of the proposed Glenbow Ranch Area Structure Plan. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

“In our opinion, the information that you have requested could be harmful to a third party business interest, in that it could reveal the contract price, as well as the information that relates to the provision of the services,” Kaiser wrote to the County News.

The 2010 studies were shelved in 2011 when the County dropped the initiative known as Bearspaw Community Development Strategy.

However, they were put back to use when a new development plan, the Glenbow Ranch area structure plan (ASP) was started in 2015.

“These plans will provide the foundation for servicing considerations for the Glenbow Ranch ASP,” a County document states. Additional updated studies for the ASP were also commissioned by the County.

Deep ravines bisect the Glenbow Ranch landscape. Photo: Enrique Massot

In May 2013, Crooks told Rocky View’s infrastructure and operations committee, made out of councillors, that members of the family that made possible the Glenbow Ranch Park by selling about 3,200 acres under market value to the province want development around the park.

“The Harvie family does not believe it would be appropriate to restrict development,” said Crooks, who is legal counsel for members of the family who would own lands in the area proposed for development.

Crooks, who was a founding board member of the developer group Rocky View 2020, also told the County committee about the need to plan for such development.

“We have been told we need an area structure plan,” he said. “Who would not want to live next to (the park)?”

The lands encompassed by the Glenbow Ranch ASP would be carved out of the existing Bearspaw Area Structure Plan, adopted by the County in 1994.

Under that plan, most of the lands encompassed by the Glenbow Ranch ASP were designated to remain agricultural, while areas closer to the City of Calgary were to be developed as country residential.

The Glenbow Ranch ASP, proposing residential development with capacity for almost 16,000 residents between the park and Highway 1A, will be considered by the Rocky View council on April 25.

Information about the project can be found in Rocky View’s website.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the public hearing and speak to council. Written submissions can be submitted by mailing to:

911 – 32 Avenue NE
Calgary, AB
T2E 6X6

Or by emailing the County’s Legislative Services at: legislativeservices@rockyview.ca

Deadline for submissions is April 12.

Opinion: Resident group criticizes rushing development in sensitive area

By Samanntha Wright and Janet Ballantyne
Rocky View Forward

Samanntha Wright

Rocky View Forward is unable to support the Glenbow Ranch Area Structure Plan (GRASP) as it is currently envisioned. 

GRASP proposes to put over 15,700 residents on the narrow plateau above a very environmentally sensitive area. GRASP represents piecemeal planning under the guise of providing a “number of well-balanced” and “multigenerational” communities. At best, it will be a scattered and disjointed bedroom community that provides no direct benefit to the County or our neighbouring communities.

Under the Bearspaw Area Structure Plan (BASP), the majority of GRASP’s lands are agricultural and are designated as “last to be developed.” These represent half of the BASP’s identified agricultural lands. The BASP is scheduled for review in late 2017.  It would make sense to determine the fate of this portion of the BASP as part of that review. Instead, some landowners within GRASP have paid to jump the queue by creating a developer-paid ASP. This is not how rational development policy should emerge.

Janet Ballantyne

GRASP is only being entertained because of intense lobbying on behalf of those landowners during the County Plan process. Despite this lobbying, there is no evidence that this area has ever been designated as a growth node or hamlet in any current policy.

The GRASP has only tenuous connections to the County Plan, BASP and the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan.  Rather, GRASP cherry-picks elements from these documents to claim consistency.  However, it is glaringly inconsistent with the overall development policy guidance provided in any of them. (View here for Janet Ballantyne’s submission on GRASP’s first draft for details on these inconsistencies).

GRASP states it is responding to development pressures in the area, but provides no evidence to support this assertion.  In fact, the County’s land inventory indicates that there are decades of capacity remaining in the Bearspaw ASP and elsewhere in the County. This plan would saturate a relatively stagnant market.

“This plan would saturate a relatively stagnant market.” Rocky View Forward

Until the community is built out, GRASP residents will impose significantly on the County’s soft infrastructure, as well as that of Cochrane and Calgary.  From schooling and recreational facilities to fire protection and policing, the strain will be significant.  Even after it is built out, it will impose on neighbouring infrastructure – the minimal commercial component and lack of health care facilities or a high school will force residents to go elsewhere for these basic services.

GRASP proposes to use a complicated system of Transferable Development Credits to purportedly conserve just under half of its developable land.  To make this claim, it defines as developable slopes up to 45 per cent.  Elsewhere in the County, land with slopes over 30% is considered unsuitable for development. One only needs to look a short distance west to Cochrane’s GlenEagles community to witness how unpredictable the slopes are in this area.

Cattle grazing on the Glenbow Ranch area structure plan land. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

GRASP also assumes that everyone will participate in the voluntary TDC program. Assumptions are a risky component of planning.  For those who decide not to participate in this complicated and untested program, it instantly provides the green light to develop 4-acre parcels throughout the entire ASP. In essence, it provides exactly what it claims it is avoiding– large acreage sprawl.

Given how environmentally sensitive this area is, a reality acknowledged in GRASP, this is not a plan that should be rushed. GRASP must ensure its i’s are dotted and its t’s are crossed. As it stands, it does neither. Instead, we are being presented with a plan whose population increased by 1,400 residents between drafts with no apparent explanation; a plan without confirmed water licenses; a plan that leaves critically important storm water planning until later; a plan that has mindboggling circuitous waste water piping; and a plan that leaves 5,800 residents on variants of septic systems.  For the other 10,000 residents, they are proposing to use a scaled-up version of the water and waste water system used in Bragg Creek with its approximately 500 residents. GRASP has many riparian areas, wetlands and wildlife corridors. They need guaranteed protection—not reliance on hopeful engineering.

Lands in the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park include areas prone to erosion. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

GRASP will also cause havoc for traffic flows on Highway 1A. Its design calls for five new traffic lights between Bearspaw Road and Cochrane. These are in addition to its assumption that the province will upgrade Highway 1A on a timely basis to deal with general population growth. A plan that encompasses such a vast area and sizable population should include service roads and interchanges. But the cost of such infrastructure is much higher. To keep costs to the developer down, GRASP will turn a major transportation corridor into the equivalent of a city street.

The County’s motivation for rushing GRASP through appears to be to beat the city to the punch.  This is blatant opportunism and fear-mongering.  Calgary has recently approved new development plans for about 180,000 additional residents in its NW quadrant and has a number of development projects in its southern quadrants. These should be more than sufficient to absorb Calgary’s growth for the foreseeable future.  Cochrane also has many plans in the works for its anticipated growth.  While there may be some validity in fearing city densities atop a fragile provincial park, the city would, at least, bring proper infrastructure with it – both hard and soft.  And, realistically, if the area is left to Calgary or Cochrane to develop neither is likely to do so for at least 20 – 30 years.

Deep coulees bisect the Glenbow Ranch area structure plan lands. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

The Calgary Regional Partnership has come out against GRASP, writing to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and describing GRASP as “not consistent with a sustainable approach to regional planning.”  While the County has not released the formal responses from Calgary or Cochrane, since they are both members of the Calgary Regional Partnership, it is reasonable to assume that they are not supportive.  Cochrane is worried about GRASP’s impact on its already strained infrastructure.  Calgary is concerned about the negative impacts from any potential missteps above an environmentally sensitive area upstream from its major water supply.

Building on your neighbours’ doorsteps while disregarding their input or the impact your development may have on these neighbours cannot lead to a positive outcome. We saw what happened with Conrich when the County pushed ahead against objections from Calgary and Chestermere – they tried to annex and it has cost the County (taxpayers) hundreds of thousands in legal fees to fight back.

Rushing through a plan of this magnitude because there is fear of a Growth Management Board highlights the desperation that impacts many of the recent decisions made in this County. Residents deserve better. We deserve accountability and the assurance that this will not be yet another development that places the taxpayer on the hook for costs that should be covered by the developer. Instead, we are getting questionable planning. This is not something that residents or Council should buy in to.

Rocky View Forward would like to encourage anyone who has concerns about GRASP to submit their views to the County by April 12.  Here’s a link to a form letter that readers can use or modify as they see fit.

Glenbow Ranch development plan ready for approval

By Enrique Massot
The County News Online

A draft plan proposing development for over 15,000 new Rocky View residents is ready to be presented to the Rocky View County council for consideration.

The proposed Glenbow Ranch ASP, which would convert 3,700 acres of ranchland into residential between the City of Calgary and the Town of Cochrane, on the south side of Highway 1A, will be presented at an April 3 open house and in front of council on April 25.

Traffic generated by the development would require the installation of traffic lights on Highway 1A at Bearspaw Road, Woodland Road, Lochend Road, Range Road 33, east of Glendale Road, and Glenview Road.

Private piped water services and stand-alone utilities could service low-density country residential, while more densely developed areas will require servicing by piped water and wastewater treatment and effluent disposal systems.

Developers build such systems and transfer them to the County after construction for operation and maintenance.

Plan densities would vary from 0.7 to 5.6 units per acre and 2.84 units per acre in areas where traditional country residential exists.

Density variation will depend on whether landowners choose to participate in a transfer of development credits (TCD) program that would allow for increased densities in some areas while leaving portions of land undeveloped.

 

The draft plan states the area is a habitat for cougars, badgers, coyotes, bobcats, mule deer, prairie falcons, bald eagles, and pileated woodpeckers.

“The value of this landscape is recognized by local landowners and residents of the Bearspaw community, who identified wildlife, habitat and corridors, wetlands, views, grasslands, archaeological areas, ranching, and coulees as important features,” the draft plan noted.

The final draft plan of the Glenbow Ranch area structure plan will be presented at a Monday, April 3 open house at RockPointe Church, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

RockPointe Church is located at 255024 Lochend Road, on the south side of Highway 1A.

To view all documents on the proposal click here.

Feedback from open house

According to feedback samples from a July 25 open house, the Glenbow Ranch ASP appears to have attracted a lively opposition. Most of those who support it appear to have developable properties in the area, although many of them are asking for changes to the plan. Most of those who question the development’s large urban size worry about loss of agricultural lands, wildlife and destabilization of the ecosystem.

To see the whole document in Rocky View’s website click here.

Page 12:

“I believe that increased density for our Glenview Road will be very complimentary to the overall area structure plan—on my property I see the now proposed density is one acre lots—I would prefer a higher density given that there will be/can be great access and egress and the views from this location are incredible and will not be impeded by development to the west due to the fact it is all conservation area— leaving a spectacular view for those who wish to live in the country but only be minutes from Calgary or Cochrane. The topography of my acreage is very conducive to higher density and I know my neighbor’s property directly north of my property is of a topography which matches the positive attributes of mine—I have copied [neighbour] on this email. I know that water can be made available for higher density spacing which requires higher density to justify the costs associated with necessary infrastructure.”

Page 14:

“The plan violates policy from the County Plan, to the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan to the BASP. It is irresponsible planning that will put further stress on Cochrane’s already overloaded infrastructure and make the commute for anyone on the Calgary to Cochrane corridor intolerable. We read about how irritated Chestermere is with this county’s growth plan and what’s going on in Conrich? Will Cochrane not try and come after the county on Glenbow Ranch? Why can’t we consider our neighbours?”

Page 15:

“The Glenbow Ranch Area Structure Plan is naturally biased towards the development in its localized region, but overall it fits into the MD of Rocky View plans for the entire NW region, as well as the locally and provincially important Cochrane-Calgary corridor.”

Page 16:

“The Plan does not do enough to identify the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park as a treasure that should be maintained as is and thus protected for this and future generations. The overall impression left with the reader after reviewing the Plan is more about how to maximize development on the surrounding land, as if this development is a done deal. Is this what we as residents of Cochrane or Calgary or Alberta need or really want; more high density development?! We believe most people are not against development but want development controlled at a manageable density especially in rural areas with higher density development confined to the existing urban centers.”

 

Page 22:

“The plan should be scrapped. Have attended most meetings and find the so called plan confusing, complicated, too many open ends, and self-serving to a small group of people. Many do not even have property in the area. This should never be presented to council, as council members do not even live in the area and they were never elected to make decisions of this magnitude. Furthermore, they will most likely have a polite discussion, and rubber stamp it. Council members that I have spoken to are currently in favor of it already. Only the property owners should be able to make a decision by means of a plebiscite. Minimum of 3.9 acres should be left as it currently is to enable owners to enjoy the country life as they have for decades. It is not broken, so don’t need fixing. So please do not fiddle with our heritage.”

Page 29:

“I have reviewed the Glenbow Ranch Area Structure Plan per your request and I found it very comprehensive and professionally done. My only 2 comments are that you continue to show a road going north of the west end of Bearspaw Village Lane (in Bearspaw Village) into development area J, there is no existing road there now. A cynic would say you are trying to slip one in to give access to area J through Bearspaw Village, this would cause unnecessary heavy traffic through the village. One of the maps shows a direct eastward route out of area J to 12 Mile Coulee but it is pretty vague. I for one, and I’m sure my neighbors also, would not want access to area J through our neighborhood.”