Rocky View County’s (RVC) Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) has rejected the appeal of two local Springbank residents, upholding the County’s earlier approval of a development permit for a new Costco store at Bingham Crossing.
The SDAB decision was formally posted on May 26, and while it is being applauded by many local residents, others predicted it will diminish the trust in RVC’s council policy and future public consultation processes in the Springbank area.
The 66-page decision boiled down to one fact of law under the Municipal Government Act: that the loose, non-binding wording of the underlying Direct Control District (DC-148) policy, originally passed by Rocky View County council, severely diminished the scope of the SDAB to rule on the appeal in this instance. That is despite the conjoined conceptual scheme and master site plan in Bingham Crossing approved by council at the same time.
“The board is aware that its role in relation to an appeal arising from a development permit application in respect of a Direct Control District is a more limited appeal,” the SDAB decision reads at one point. “In contrast to the authority of the Board under section 687(3)(c), where the Board may confirm, revoke or vary a development permit or a condition of a development permit, the jurisdiction of the Board under section 685(4) has been limited by the Municipal Government Act.”
The decision goes on to state the SDAB must follow the direction of County staff as the development authority in this instance, because in the case of the Bingham Crossing DC-148 policy, nothing within it ties Costco’s permit approval to either the master site plan or conceptual scheme agreed upon after public consultations with local residents in Springbank.
“The Master Site Development Plan (was) adopted by resolution however council did not expressly direct how to apply the Master Site Development Plan,” the decision reads in part. “There is not language of ‘shall apply’ and no language that the Master Site Development Plan form part of DC Bylaw 148. DC Bylaw 148 is not, and is not intended to be, amended by resolution, or by the Master Site Development Plan.”
The ruling then goes on to state the Conceptual Scheme approved by RVC council, which imagined a pedestrian-friendly, country village-style shopping area at the site, is also non-statutory for the same reason.
“The Conceptual Scheme was adopted by council in order to provide policy direction,” it reads. “The Conceptual Scheme was adopted by bylaw but not by bylaw to amend DC Bylaw 148. The Conceptual Scheme predates DC Bylaw 148 and it was not to amend an applicable statutory plan.”
Springbank Community Association’s vice-president and director of planning Al Schmidt acknowledged there are many residents in the acreage community who are thrilled to have a Costco coming now that SDAB has rejected the appeal.
However, he pointed out not everyone is excited about it..
“For us, we recognize there are mixed feelings in the community,” he said. “If we put this to a referendum, I don’t even know what the final outcome would be. There is healthy level of support and a healthy level of opposition to the Costco application.”
Regardless of whether one supports the SDAB decision to reject the appeal of the Costco permit or not, Schmidt felt the process has now sewn distrust of any proposed public consultations that may be held by the County in the Springbank region in the future, and led to more skepticism toward RVC council’s policy-making in general when it comes to future proposed Direct Control Districts.
“I think the lesson for anybody that has followed this file, and/or been part of the appeal process, would be eyes wider open related to DC land use applications going forward,” he confirmed. “There had been an impression that conceptual schemes would be more binding on future decisions than what this has turned out to be.”
Now that the SDAB has rendered its decision, the appellants, Jeffrey Tooth and Denise Dancey of Springbank, will have 30 days to decide if they wish to take more legal action on the issue.
“The appellants have 30 days to appeal SDAB’s decision to the Court of Appeal,” explained RVC executive director of Community Development Services Matt Boscariol in a statement released to the Rocky View Weekly on May 31. “Once the appeal deadline has passed, Costco can then work on fulfilling their prior to release conditions listed in the Notice of Decision. They (Costco) will have until February 7, 2024, to fulfill their ‘prior to release’ conditions.”
The Rocky View Weekly did try to reach out to Tooth and Dancey for comment, but was unable to contact either appellant prior to the newspaper’s press deadline.