Public input closed on Wintergreen redevelopment

By Enrique Massot
The County News

Input from Bragg Creek area residents regarding a proposed redevelopment of the former Wintergreen ski hill is no longer accepted, a Rocky View County spokesperson said.

“The time for public input was at the (Nov. 28) initial public hearing,” said Communications Manager Grant Kaiser. “The public hearing is now closed.”

Kaiser said the County received “many presentations and submissions both for and against” the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) proposal prior to the public hearing.

County administration reported to council that notice of the proposal was circulated to 110 “adjacent landowners.”

Not all Wintergreen residents, however, received the notice. Three residents sent letters in support, two of which contained objections, and one letter of unconditional support was sent by the Bragg Creek and Area Chamber of Commerce.

Six residents sent letters in opposition.

At the public hearing, nine residents spoke in support of the development, while three spoke in opposition.

Residents can still communicate their views to councillors, whose official email addresses can be found here.

RCR proposes to build approximately 300 homes, a 100-room hotel and a commercial component in lands previously occupied by the ski hill, which was decommissioned in 2003. County administration recommended council to turn down the application because several key outstanding items remained unsolved two years and a half after the plan was submitted to Rocky View.

Council, however, passed first and second readings to both a conceptual scheme and land-use redesignation for the proposal but withheld third (final) reading on both applications, directing County administration to negotiate outstanding technical items with RCR.

Such items, outlined in an administrative report to council, include:

  • Incompatibility of the proposal with housing densities permitted by the Greater Bragg Creek area structure plan,
  • Requirement for a second emergency egress for the area,
  • Requirement for a third emergency egress once 600 homes are built in north and west Bragg Creek (there is a total 500 homes in both areas now),
  • RCR’s agreement to finance the widening of Wintergreen Road to 10 metres from eight,
  • Provincial approval of a water licence conversion from snow-making to domestic use,
  • RCR’s agreement to connect the proposed development to Rocky View’s wastewater treatment plant and to finance capacity upgrades,
  • Provision of improved emergency egress from the subdivision for about 100 houses,
  • Provision of improved access to the Hamlet of Bragg Creek from Highway 22,
  • Municipal reserve calculations and specifications clarified to County administration’s satisfaction

The results of the negotiations must be presented to council after the new year.

“A report from Administration on progress will be presented to Council on January 23,” noted Kaiser in a Dec. 7 email to the County News. “At that time, Council will decide whether or not they are prepared to accept third reading, refuse it, or give more time/direction to Administration and then hold the matter off until a later date.”

An audio recording of the Nov. 28 meeting can be found in the County’s website. Council’s consideration of the RCR proposal starts at 2:28 and ends at 5:11.

Wintergreen redevelopment given preliminary approval

Developer, County must solve outstanding issues

By Enrique Massot
The County News

A developer must solve outstanding issues before Rocky View County allows the redevelopment of the former Wintergreen ski hill into residential, hotel and retail centre.

“What I would like to see is Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) and staff come together and dot some i’s and cross some t’s with regards to everything we heard today,” said area Coun. Mark Kamachi.

On Nov. 28, the County council gave second reading but withheld third (final) reading to a conceptual scheme and land-use redesignation allowing for about 300 residences, a hotel and commercial space in the former Wintergreen ski hill.

“We want to have control, making sure (the project) is as close as possible to the (Greater Bragg Creek) area structure plan and the wants of the community,” said Kamachi.

A proposal to turn a former ski hill into a residential development has remaining issues. Photo: County News archive.


The financing of upgrades to Wintergreen Road, connecting the proposed redevelopment to the Hamlet of Bragg Creek and Highway 22, is one unsolved item.

RCR’s position is that the 3.2-km road cost improvements must be shared by the County.

Other outstanding issues are the developer’s financing commitment to enhance the Bragg Creek wastewater treatment plant; redesign the development’s secondary road access to allow for safe evacuation in an emergency event; provisions for emergency egress from the west and north Bragg Creek area; agreement on municipal reserve land calculations, and clarification of responsibilities on open space maintenance.

Michael Coldwell, planner with Urban Systems representing RCR was disappointed by the delay.

“The fact that we are going to be sent back to the drawing board really concerns us,” he said.

Coldwell wanted to obtain immediate approval for both applications and address the outstanding issues at the later stage of subdivision and development permit.

However, County planner Johnson Kwan said approval of the conceptual scheme would reduce council’s leverage.

“At the subdivision stage it is often too late to deal with technical issues because council can be taken out of the process through a simple appeal,” he said. “Council has no particular role once the subdivision appeal is made.”

Area residents spoke both in support and opposition to the proposal.

Susan Cameron, a 35-year area local resident, supported the project.

“What has been presented here before council today is, in our opinion, a class-act development,” she said, outlining a list of projects done by RCR across Canada.

Cameron also criticized the administrative report to council.

“There were not positive comments,” she said. “There seemed to be no balance.”

Former area councillor Liz Breakey supported immediate approval of the RCR plan.

“The technical issues associated with the proposal can be resolved through the application of conditions on subdivision development,” she said.

Breakey, who was chair of the steering committee in charge of writing the local area plan in 2006, said the Wintergreen site had been discussed.

“As one of two north Bragg Creek reps for the area I’d like to state clearly that the Wintergreen redevelopment proposal was always very much a part of the Greater Bragg Creek Area Structure Plan,” she said.

However, Gordon McIlwain, who was vice-chair of the steering committee, had a different recollection.

“This particular (RCR) proposal area, my recollections are, was basically a new development area as described in the area structure plan,” he said.

McIlwain said the committee envisioned future growth, “to the south of the existing hamlet along Highway 22, up to the (Banded Peak) school.”

McIlwain asked council to uphold the area structure plan and turn down the RCR proposal.

“This community put its heart and soul into the communication and the consultation around the area structure plan,” he said. “It’s a carefully designed document and it was the best consensus that the community could reach around 2006.”

Local business owner and long-time Wintergreen resident Michael Woertman opposed the redevelopment.

“I find the RCR application extremely aggressive in nature in areas that have been highlighted by your own staff,” he said. “There is an opportunity for council to gain some credibility by turning down this application entirely and asking the applicant to address all the key concerns.”

Wintergreen 24-year resident David Deer supported the plan and said the area needs to grow.

“I am here to give my full support for sensible growth,” he said.

However, Deer also emphasized the need to upgrade Wintergreen Road adding a pathway for the safety of numerous pedestrians using it.

“I am a marathoner, I run up and down on that road, probably three to five times a week and I’ve been nearly hit a number of times,” he said.

The RCR’s planning consultant said aligning the project with the Greater Bragg Creek area structure plan would allow for just 80 residential units, a number that would render the project uneconomical.

In disagreement with administration’s warnings,  Coun. Al Schule made a motion to allow passing third and final reading to the conceptual scheme after the public hearing closure.

“I believe most items can be dealt with redesignation,” he said.

Schule’s motion was supported by Reeve Greg Boehlke and Coun. Daniel Henn.

However, Kamachi opposed the motion, with support from Deputy Reeve Gautreau and councillors Kim McKylor, Kevin Hanson, Samanntha Wright and Crystal Kissel.

Third (final) readings to the conceptual scheme and land-use change will be considered Jan. 23, pending resolution of remaining outstanding issues.

Opinion: RCR Wintergreen application falls short

By Enrique Massot
The County News

Citing several missing items, Rocky View staff report has recommended council to turn down an application to redevelop the former Wintergreen ski hill as a large residential and commercial complex.

The ball is now in council’s court.

To be sure, council has the power to follow its administration’s advice and reject the application. It could also change it, impose conditions, or just approve the project as presented.

The nine-member body would, however, be expected to consider the financial implications the proposal could have for County taxpayers.

For example, upgrading the 3.5 km-long Wintergreen Road to accommodate additional traffic to be generated by the development is a multi-million undertaking.

Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR), the largest private ski resort in Canada and owner of hotels, lodges and golf courses across the country, is proposing the County to share the cost of the upgrades – without mention of sharing percentages.

To be fair, a private company’s goal is to maximize benefits. If they can get to build 300 residences with minimum conditions, it is their right to try.

A different thing is the municipal council, which must carefully weigh the public interest in each decision it makes.

Administrators, to their credit, have clearly stated their disagreement with the developer’s suggestion to “share” the cost of the road upgrades. They have indicated that the upgrades will be needed to accommodate traffic to be generated by the RCR development and pointed out the Greater Bragg Creek area structure plan aims to build pedestrian trails along area roads.

Cost consideration for several other items is missing in the application. As pointed out in the staff report, a second emergency egress from the area is required and traffic circles are planned to improve access to the hamlet from Highway 22 – however, funding for these items has not been secured.

In addition, staff noted the development connect to the municipal sewage treatment plant near the hamlet, which may need upgrades to process the additional flows.

The all-encompassing matter, however, is whether the proposed development’s size and density is acceptable for the area. Residents have argued in the past that changes to area structure plans should be done with participation of the area residents, as opposed to council summarily amending the plan.

Now, is council under some sort of obligation or pressure to approve this – or any – development?

Not at all. A municipality is obligated to accept applications and give them a fair hearing. Council must hear the applicant and the public. After that, council alone has authority to approve or reject any proposal, and its decisions on land use are unappealable. A decision is scheduled to be rendered on Tuesday, Nov. 18, after a hearing starting at 1:30 p.m.

The developer still has the right to reapply after some time.

Which seems a reasonable proposition at this point.

Administration recommends refusal of Wintergreen redevelopment plan

By Enrique Massot
The County News

Rocky View administrators are advising council to turn down a development proposing about 285 residential units, a village core and a commercial component in the Wintergreen area.

The proposal of Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which would house about 900 residents in lands where a ski hill used to be, does not conform with the Greater Bragg Creek area structure plan (ASP), wrote Johnson Kwan of the County’s Planning Services.

“The proposed comprehensive community…proposes a higher density than what is allowed for the area under the current policy,” Kwan noted in a report to council.

On Nov. 28, council could decide to amend the Greater Bragg Creek ASP to allow for the development. In addition, council could decide to change the land use designation from business recreation district to direct control district.

A proposal to turn a former ski hill into a residential development has been recommended for refusal. Photo: County News archive.

Kwan noted the developer is proposing to upgrade the 3.2-kilometre Wintergreen Road connecting the development to the Hamlet of Bragg Creek and Highway 22 on a cost-share basis with Rocky View County (RVC).

However, he also noted that there is no agreement in place regarding such cost sharing.

“Costs of…upgrades shall be borne solely by the Developer, as this upgrade is identified as required to support development traffic,” Kwan wrote.

In addition, the developer has not considered any pedestrian access to Bragg Creek along Wintergreen Road or other possible alignments.

“As per the Greater Bragg Creek Area Structure Plan, development of a community trails system is a priority for the community,” Kwan noted.

Rocky View Fire Services noted that there is only one access road planned to the whole subdivision.

“This is not Fire Smart,” the service noted. “Relying on one road to evacuate the entire community may not be wise.”

The report to council notes several additional concerns that include the status of water licences, sewage treatment options and stormwater management.

In addition, north and west Bragg Creek currently rely on a single egress route through the Balsam Avenue bridge over the Elbow River.

“According to the National Fire Protection Association standards, the existing conditions, with approximately 500 residential units, would require a minimum of two access points,” the report noted. “The additional development proposed by the Applicant would lead to the requirement for a third access point in the north and west Bragg Creek area.”

The developer has not proposed how to address the lack of emergency egress in the area.

“Allowing such comprehensive development without adequately addressing the emergency egress situation would exacerbate the existing public safety concern, potentially putting additional population at risk in an emergency event,” Kwan’s report noted.

Six residents submitted letters in opposition to the proposal, while three residents wrote in support.

The council of Rocky View will consider the proposal on Tuesday, Nov. 28, starting 1:30 p.m.

The staff report to council can be found in the Rocky View official website or by clicking here.


Tri-River reservoir a better option than Springbank, consultant says

By Enrique Massot
The County News 

Controlling the flow of three rivers at once could allow much better flood mitigation than the Springbank dam and off-stream reservoir, a civil engineer says.

“There are four rivers causing flood,” said Dr. Emile Gabriel. “If we work on one river only we are missing the other three.”

Gabriel, president and CEO of Trinity M.C.G. consultancy, began studying flood mitigation alternatives after the catastrophic June 2013 floods in the Calgary region.

Dr. Emile Gabriel speaks at Redwood Meadows on Nov. 10. Photo: Enrique Massot

Speaking at a Nov. 10 presentation in Redwood Meadows, he said the Tri-River Joint Reservoir option would allow controlling three flood-causing rivers with a single dam and reservoir

Gabriel was dismayed when the NDP Alberta government backtracked from an election campaign promise of building a dam at McLean Creek and instead decided to keep the previous government’s choice to build a dam and reservoir in Springbank.

“I asked, why so close to the city?” he said.

Gabriel said earth dams are subject to breaks, citing the 2014 break of the Mount Polley dam in B.C.

“This happened just three years ago,” he added.

In case of failure, the 15 km between Calgary and the Springbank dam would leave little time to prepare, as water would take just 15 minutes to reach the city.

The Springbank project was designed to protect Calgary from a 2013-sized flood.

However, Gabriel said, “no expert can guarantee the next flood will be equivalent to that of 2013.”

And as roadblocks to the Springbank project multiply, Gabriel said the government should give a chance to the Tri-River Joint Reservoir option.

Dr. Karen Massey, a Redwood Meadows resident, was concerned the Springbank dam would leave the townsite without upstream protection.

“History has shown from the 1995, 2005, and 2013 floods that the rip rap on the berms get washed away,” she said. “We don’t want our basements flooded in Redwood Meadows when…water from the proposed Springbank reservoir creates pressure on the springs and start to back up.”

Controlling the Elbow, the Sheep and the Highwood Rivers would reduce flooding in most of the Calgary area. Because the three rivers are tributaries of the Bow River, controlling their flow could also help control the Bow downstream of Calgary.

Taking advantage of the topography, Gabriel’s plan would allow for diversion of water from the Elbow and the Highwood Rivers to a reservoir formed by a dam on the Sheep River running between the two.

The resulting reservoir would be 30 km long and one km wide, able to contain 10 times the 70 million cubic metres for which the Springbank dam is designed.

Gabriel said the Springbank dam would be sitting on clay, whereas a concrete dam at Tri-River would be built on a solid rock foundation.

The Springbank dam has been designed to store flood water only temporarily.

“But you can’t store water or generate power with it,” Gabriel said.

Instead, the permanent water storage provided by the Tri-River project could be used to generate power, to supply water to Okotoks, for irrigation and for forest firefighting purposes.

“The Three-River project is an investment,” said Gabriel. “Springbank is not an investment at all—it’s a liability.”

Gabriel said some objections focused on the fact the Tri-River project would be in Kananaskis Country.

However, he said, “you have engineered structures such as Lake Minnewanka, where a dam was built to generate hydroelectric power.”

The Spray Lakes Reservoir, built in 1950, is another example of engineered structures in Kananaskis Country.

Gabriel, who built the Tri-River concept on a voluntary basis, could not provide an estimate cost for the proposal, which should be part of a provincial study. However, such study will need to take into account that the Springbank project would have an annual maintenance cost and yield no benefits, while the Tri-River project could generate annual benefits in irrigation, water supply and power generation.


Rocky View to consider Wintergreen redevelopment Nov. 28

A proposal to redevelop a former ski hill as a 300-home subdivision is going in front of the Rocky View council on Tuesday, Nov. 28.

Consideration of the proposal is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. and will include a public hearing where residents and stakeholders will be able to present to council.

According to a 2005 draft, The Pines at Bragg Creek would include a 100-room hotel.

The project is proposed on 254 acres that were occupied by the decommissioned Wintergreen ski hill and adjacent to the Wintergreen Golf and Country Club. The residential sector will include single family, semi-detached and some row-style homes on lots sized from 0.09 acre to three acres.

An additional 89-acre parcel would be allocated for public use.

More details will be available on Rocky View County’s agenda for the Nov. 28 council meeting, to be posted Wednesday Nov. 23, around 4:30 p.m.



Rocky View opposes regional planning

By Enrique Massot
The County News 

As the provincial government announces its implementation, Rocky View remains opposed to regional planning and argues the current system works fine.

“For many years now, Rocky View County has followed the principles of sound regional planning,” notes an official County release. “We’ve worked with our many neighbouring cities, towns, districts, and counties to avoid conflicts.”

In several communications and a position paper submitted to the province, the County has objected to what it calls an “unelected” growth management board.

“At no point did the Alberta Government ask residents and property owners in the Calgary region if they wanted to see autonomy taken away from their elected councils and given to an unelected board,” said County Reeve Greg Boehlke in an Oct. 4 communication.

A Municipal Affairs spokesperson, however, said municipal government boards will in fact be made up of elected officials – such as Boehlke.

“Boards must be composed of elected representatives – usually mayors and reeves unless otherwise chosen by councils,” said Lauren Arscott, press secretary for Shaye Anderson, Minister of Municipal Affairs.

The County is also concerned with lack of appeal mechanism in regard to future MGB rulings.

“The Alberta government seems to feel that removing the right to appeal a decision to an independent body is just fine for these Growth Management Boards,” said Boehlke.

Arscott said GMBs will be required to establish, by bylaw, an appeal or dispute-resolution mechanism or both, to resolve disputes arising from a board’s actions or decisions.

While GMBs decisions will be final, Arscott said, municipalities will retain the ability to appeal any decision to the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Boehlke has also claimed that lack of public consultation has plagued the Growth Management Board process from the start.

Municipalities near Calgary and Edmonton will see their authority and the rights of their landowners eroded, and many people have no idea it is even happening,” he noted.

According to information in the MGA Review provincial website, about 1,500 citizens provided input through 77 community meetings during the first phase of a review of the Municipal Government Act that began in 2012.

More than1,250 written submissions were submitted to the province (from) municipalities, including a 20-page Rocky View position paper as well as industry, the oil and gas sector, builders and developers, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties.

During a second round, the province heard from 2,400 citizens attending 21 public sessions; 2,376 questionnaires and 122 letters were submitted.

Boehlke says a chief concern for the County is the decision-making system that will require two-thirds of the municipality members having two-thirds of the total population.

The Calgary growth management board will be formed by Calgary, Chestermere, Airdrie, Rocky View, Okotoks, Cochrane, M.D. of Foothills, Strathmore, a portion of Wheatland County, and High River.

On Jan. 1, 2018, provisions in the reviewed Municipal Government Act establishing a growth management board (GMB) in the Calgary area will be in force.

The GMB will have three years to prepare a growth plan for the Calgary area.

Municipalities members of a GMB will be required to amend statutory plans and make decisions consistent with the growth plan and the umbrella regional plan, the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, approved in 2014.

The GMB will also be tasked with preparing, within three years, a Metropolitan Development/Servicing Plan for the Metropolitan Region including services such as water and wastewater, transportation and transit, solid waste, and fire services.

Alternative flood mitigation plan to be presented at Redwood Meadows

Calgary group says the Tri-River Joint Reservoir (TRJR) should be studied as an alternative to the Springbank Dry Dam Off-Stream Reservoir.
Proponents say the plan would provide upstream management of three rivers (Elbow, Sheep and Highwood), giving better protection for downstream communities including Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows.
Watch video about the TRJR proposal.
To learn more, attend a presentation on the Tri-River Upstream Flood Mitigation Project.

Friday Nov 10, @ 7:30 pm

Where: Redwood House Community Centre

1 Manyhorses Drive, Redwood Meadows


Province announces completion of new Municipal Government Act

By Enrique Massot
The County News

After over five years of work, the provincial government has announced the completion of a five-year review of the Municipal Government Act (MGA).

“This updated piece of legislation provides municipalities the tools and resources they need to build strong communities,” said Shaye Anderson, Minister of Municipal Affairs.

With over 700 sections, the MGA is Alberta’s second largest piece of legislation and guides how municipalities operate. The final piece was the proclamation of regulations to the new MGA announced Oct. 26.

One of the major additions to the new MGA is the reinstatement of mandatory regional planning in the province’s two major metropolitan areas.

Regional planning existed in Alberta but was eliminated in 1995 during a review of the MGA, leaving intermunicipal collaboration to the will of individual municipalities.

This led to increasing conflicts as land-rich rural municipalities began to compete with urban centres for development.

Lack of regional co-ordination led to duplication of services where regional approaches could reduce costs due to economies of scale, leading to greater efficiencies.

However, the Edmonton Metropolitan Region has succeeded in gathering 24 municipalities that are working together to coordinate growth, servicing and energy corridors.

As a result, the new requirement will mostly impact the Calgary region, where attempts to coordinate growth and services voluntarily failed to retain the rural municipalities.

Another provision of the new MGA will allow municipalities to implement off-site levies to fund the construction of community recreation facilities, fire halls, police stations and libraries.

The MGA in place to date allowed municipalities to create levies only for new or expanded roads, sanitary sewer systems, storm sewers and water systems.

Other additions to the MGA include:

  • Allowing parental leave for municipal councillors
  • Requiring training to be offered to municipal councillors
  • The provincial ombudsman providing oversight of municipalities
  • Mandatory compliance with the Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA) regional plans

Growth Management Boards

To ensure compliance with the ALSA and regional plans, Growth Management Boards will be created in both the Edmonton and Calgary regions.

Municipalities in the region will be required to amend statutory plans and make decisions consistent with the growth plan for the entire region.

The Calgary Regional Partnership was formed as a voluntary organization of municipalities. It prepared and adopted the Calgary Metropolitan Plan for member municipalities within the Calgary region.

However, the rural municipalities surrounding Calgary withdrew from the Partnership without adopting the metropolitan plan.

“That has hindered integrated planning and servicing across the region,” the provincial government has noted.

Upon the proclamation of the new MGA regulations, a Growth Management Board will continue to be mandatory for the City of Edmonton region, and a Growth Management Board will be created in the Calgary region to address:

  • Land-use planning
  • Servicing of growth
  • Regional service delivery
  • Cost sharing
  • Dispute resolution

 Municipal Affairs will work with municipalities in the two metropolitan growth regions to further develop the regulations that define the mandate, membership and governance of their Growth Management Boards.

To read the Alberta government’s full press release, click here.

For more information, go to Alberta’s MGA Review website.

(Editor’s note) This article was updated on Oct. 27, 2017

Rocky View council elects Boehlke as reeve

By Enrique Massot
The County News

The newly elected Rocky View council has chosen Greg Boehlke as reeve for the first year of the 2017-2021 term.

After being nominated by Coun. Al Schule and with no further nominations being made, Boehlke was acclaimed for council’s top position during the Oct. 24 organizational meeting in which the new councillors were sworn-in.

“I thank you very much council for your support,” Boehlke said as he took his seat as reeve. “I appreciate it and (I am) looking forward to this year of a new start here for Rocky View County.”

Boehlke was Rocky View reeve for the last two years of the previous term.

After Schule declined a nomination as deputy reeve, Jerry Gautreau was nominated for the position and declared elected by acclamation when no other nominations were made.

Gautreau represents the eastern Div. 5 encompassing Delacour, Dalroy and Conrich, and was member of the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board for several years.

Div. 2 Springbank Coun. Kim McKylor was elected chair of the Policy and Priorities Committee (PPC) as the only councillor nominated for the position. The PPC is made up of all councillors and makes recommendations to council.

Div. 7 Coun. Daniel Henn was elected chair of the Agricultural Service Board, with Mark Kamachi of Div. 1 and Crystal Kissel of Div. 9 being elected as board’s council members.

Councillors Al Schule and Deputy Reeve Jerry Gautreau were elected as council members of the Family and Community Support Services Board.

Councillors Kevin Hanson of Div. 3 Elbow Valley; Crystal Kissel of Div. 9 and Samanntha Wright of Div. 8 Bearspaw were elected to be council members of the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board / Enforcement Review Committee.

Due to the retirement of four previous councillors and the defeat of three incumbents in the election results, seven out of nine current members of council are first-time councillors.

Boehlke has represented Div. 6 since being first elected in 2004.

Schule is returning to council after being councillor and reeve from the late 1990s until the mid 2000s.

To see the full list of appointments click here.