The County News
(Editor’s note): this news story expands on the original version published on Jan. 24.
Residents applauded Rocky View’s decision to quash a proposal to build about 300 homes, a hotel and commercial space in the former Wintergreen ski hill.
On Jan. 23, the council of Rocky View County turned down on a 7-2 vote the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) proposal, on a motion of area Coun. Mark Kamachi.
“The newly appointed Council has done the right thing to refuse the application,” said area resident Henk van Klinken. “There were too many unresolved issues to let the developer proceed with the project.”
Wintergreen resident Dr. Bernie Luft commended the County’s planning department for “their responsible and objective evaluation of the increased safety hazards that were inherent in the development conceptual plan.”
“It’s something that would affect the entire Wintergreen and greater Bragg Creek areas,” Luft added. “Not just the residents immediately adjacent to the proposed location.”
Luft and van Klinken were part of over 40 area residents who signed letters of concern after Nov. 28, asking council to reject the RCR proposal or reduce its size.
The RCR plan proposed an overall residential density about three times higher than allowed by the Greater Bragg Creek area structure plan. The plan also directs commercial development to the Hamlet of Bragg Creek.
Council granted the RCR proposal first and second reading on Nov. 28, but withheld third reading and directed County administrators to work with the developer on a list of outstanding items which included:
- A second emergency egress for West and North Bragg Creek
- Upgrades to a two-mile long road connecting Wintergreen to the Hamlet and Highway 22,
- Upgrades to the Bragg Creek wastewater treatment plant
- A second emergency egress from the proposed subdivision
County planner Johnson Kwan reported meeting with developer representatives and landowners twice in December – to no avail.
“Today, no additional information and no new technical studies have been provided to address outstanding technical issues,” he said.
As he had done on Nov. 28, Kwan recommended council to turn down the proposal.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards, west and north Bragg Creek with 500 homes are required to have at least two access routes. Currently, the area can be accessed only through the Balsam Ave. bridge in Bragg Creek.
“At the end of the day…the main purpose of a municipality is to develop and maintain safe and viable communities.” Coun. Mark Kamachi
Additionally, building just 100 homes in Wintergreen would have triggered the need for a third access point, as recommended by the NFPA for communities with over 600 residences.
RCR proposed to amend its two-and-a-half-year application to reduce the size of a proposed hotel to 50 rooms from 100. The second amendment proposed to “explore” funding for upgrades to Wintergreen Road – at subdivision stage. Kwan cautioned council that the developer would be able to appeal subdivision conditions to the Municipal Government Board, taking the matter out of council’s jurisdiction.
Assisted by outside legal counsel Joanne Klauer, council considered reopening public input, as new information could have become available after the closure of public input.
She said allowing a developer’s representative to speak to council on Nov. 28 after the closure of the public hearing could be deemed unfair, exposing any decisions on the matter to a potential judicial review.
Klauer said council could reopen the public hearing to make it even to all parties.
“My advice would be to consider taking a more prudent approach to procedural fairness,” she said.
Schule, who is back in council after having served several terms as councillor and reeve, said he would support either reopening the public hearing or immediate approval.
“If there was a motion to give third reading I would support it,” he said. “I would not support refusal either. I would support reopening the public hearing.”
However, Kamachi put forth a motion to reject the proposal entirely as recommended by administration, in view of lack of progress on outstanding technical issues and safety.
“I was open to see a lot more come back from the Nov. 28 meeting,” he said. “At the end of the day…the main purpose of a municipality is to develop and maintain safe and viable communities.”
Kamachi’s motion was approved with the opposing vote of Deputy Reeve Jerry Gautreau and Coun. Al Schule.
Gautreau said reopening the hearing was his preferred approach.
“Myself and Coun. Schule wanted this to go back to public hearing because we felt that this could go to a judicial review,” he wrote in a Jan. 26 email to the County News.
Both Gautreau and Schule then joined the rest of council in unanimously turning down the second part of the application – a change in the former ski hill’s land use designation that would have allowed for residential and commercial uses.
Van Klinken felt deficiencies in process led the proposal to a dead end.
“The municipality needs to take the lead from the early inception of such developments to guide the developer and the community towards a solution that fits with the overall vision for the community and the available infrastructure,” he said.
The community should also make sure there is a clear vision for its future, van Klinken added.
“The Area Structure Plan is an important document that documents this vision, and if an update of this plan is required, now would be the time to get together with the Rocky View planners and the community to develop this updated vision.”