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.