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.