Opinion – Development, lawsuit: Beware of your tax dollars

By Jerry Arshinoff

(Editor’s note: Jerry Arshinoff represented Div. 2 Springbank as member of the Rocky View County council from 2013 to 2017)

Wintergreen redevelopment proposal


This month, the Rocky View Council will continue the debate on a proposed large development at the former site of the Wintergreen ski hill.

Many factors must be evaluated, most notably community input (cancelled since Nov. 28) and potential taxpayer subsidies.

Rule number one should be: no more subsidies. Developers must be willing and able to foot the bill for all related necessary infrastructure, including sewage, roads, etc.

If Rocky View continues to promise or guarantee unrealistic and undeliverable infrastructure, many more legal suits will be forthcoming.

Rocky View settles with Sunterra

Rocky View residents should pay attention to ​ the​ recently announced settlement the County made in regards to a lawsuit launched by Sunterra Beef against Rocky View. See also County News story.

The suit was for $50 million. The settlement will cost you $14 million, or $1,400 per Rocky View family of four. The payment to Sunterra does not take into account an additional, significant sum for legal fees.

At first glance, two factors become apparent – no one seems to be responsible for this debacle and Rocky View, in the hope no one would be paying attention, released this news shortly before Christmas.

This is what happens when poorly planned and poorly thought out developments are approved. That is not to say we haven’t had beneficial and positive developments. We certainly have – but many more have been little more than a big rush to promote growth at any cost. Very often that cost has been in environmental, lifestyle and social terms. In this case its also in terms of $14 million plus of taxpayer money gone straight down the drain.

Rocky View pure drivel is apparent in the last two paragraphs of the announcement:

“The decision to reassign water and wastewater capacity to other businesses and developments has resulted in economic stability and lower taxes….”

“Development has brought tens-of-millions of dollars in non-residential property taxes and levies. That economic activity has helped keep residential property tax rates among the lowest in the province.”

Only Rocky View would present a loss of more than $14 million as a good thing. The reality is that previous, current and planned subsidies more than offset the increase in non-residential taxes.  It is true that Rocky View does have a lower tax rate than many of its neighbours – but that is because the county does not offer many services neighbours do, such as buses, LRT, social services, sidewalks, garbage pick up,​ street lights, policing, sewage, water and others.

Subsidies have not brought lower taxes. Subsidies have brought tenfold increased debt.