If I were to tally the emails readers have sent to Rocky View Weekly and rank the issues they felt are the most important in Rocky View County (RVC) – bureaucratic red tape and “councillor infighting” would take an overwhelming majority.
We – as an editorial board – have sat down numerous times and discussed whether we should be reporting on the perceived frustrations from residents concerning RVC council procedures and behaviours.
Every time we start the discussion, the outcome is always the same. It’s not our position as a newspaper to judge the effectiveness of a situation in a news story, but to inform the residents on the proceedings and if we were to report on it, it would involve taking a stance, which would make us bias.
We will maintain our editorial integrity and remain neutral.
On May 27 we – media, members of the public, applicants, staff and council – sat through The Bingham Crossing Phase 1 subdivision application procedure for the second time - three hours of the Bingham Crossing Phase 1 subdivision application procedure. (See story on page 1).
This is why opinion pieces were created.
I recorded the amount of back-and-forth councillors went through over procedure, not just expressions of opinion, but procedure.
After discussions councillors had with staff, who did their best to answer technical and procedural questions, the following occurred: a councillor moved to reject the application, another councillor stated that they wouldn’t support the motion but would support postponing the application.
Three points of order were called over whether the councillor could do that (turned out they couldn’t), a friendly amendment was suggested, more point of orders were called, turns out council couldn’t take that route either, a councillor challenged the chair, the reeve directed council through consolation with the municipal clerk to vote on the motion on the floor – which was the refusal of the application - council voted in opposition allowing the application to go ahead, the original councillor moved to postpone the application, the reeve made a friendly amendment to the second official motion on the floor – which was accepted, council voted down the motion – the application was not postponed, and eventually – one hour later – councillors voted on the original staff recommendation to approve Bingham Crossing.
The vote was 5-4 in favour and Bingham was approved.
Two hours of discussions and one hour of bureaucratic back-and-forth to approve – a highly controversial development – that’s been in the works since 2012.
To be fair, this was extraordinary, and it isn’t always this convoluted.
It was some councillors’ opinion that all reports surrounding the application should be made available to councillors before the application is approved.
Currently, RVC makes compliance with any recommendations that arise from engineering reports that focus on stormwater management plans, wastewater, groundwater protection etc, a condition of approval.
If the provincial government decides that a particular section of the development could lead to or make worse, RVC states those concerns need to be dealt with before a development permit is issued, but after the subdivision is approved.
Is it a perfect system? Of course not.
The role of a councillor is to vote on behalf of their consistency, not to challenge the system to the point where development applications take years to come through council.
If the councillors’ feeling is that the development isn’t in the best interest of their voters, vote against the application and be done with it, end of story.
I’m no engineer, and I don’t want to be. So I trust that those who have spent many years studying have the expertise to tell me their educated opinion on what will happen.
When I take my car to the mechanic, I don’t take it for a test drive to see if they’ve done the work properly, I pay and get my car back. I’m paying for their expertise, why wouldn’t I trust it?
The same principle applies here. If you can’t trust the engineers, who can you trust? The alternative is to appoint councillors that only have a scientific background, which would create a dangerous political landscape.
The reeve, to her credit, did sense the frustration in the audience, and explained that due process was needed, and of course it is. But while one per cent of the population knows how municipal government procedures work, 99 per cent don’t care.
They want to see a council that is effective and that works together. The reeve explained that “if we lose the public’s confidence, we are in dire straights... it is incumbent (upon us) to come across as honest and transparent.”
I would argue, Madame Reeve, that you already have lost the public’s confidence.