Rocky View County (RVC) council has taken steps to remove hamlet population boundaries from the County Plan, as well as amend the document to allow for the development of enterprises near approved business areas – pending the approval of the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB).
“On Mar. 12, council directed administration to prepare several amendments to the County Plan,” said Amy Zaluski, supervisor of planning policy, during a presentation to council at a regular meeting June 11.
Instead of population boundaries, she said, population size would be determined through the Area Structure Plan (ASP) process. Other amendments provide more flexibility regarding business development, Zaluski added.
“The County Plan currently has a policy that discourages placing business development adjacent to existing business ASPs,” she said. “The purpose of that was to ensure the viability of the business area was not compromised by having development directly adjacent that benefits from cheaper land prices while not contributing to infrastructure.”
Based on feedback from concerned residents, she said, administration prepared additional amendments to include criteria requiring the same level of technical studies and levies from businesses seeking to develop in these areas.
During the public hearing, several members of the development and business community spoke in favour of the proposed amendments. Lowell Harder, president of the Bragg Creek Chamber of Commerce, said the changes “send a strong message to existing businesses and businesses considering the area that RVC is a progressive, growth-minded county where it’s possible to do business.”
“A population cap only restricts growth, it doesn’t enable prosperity,” he said. “I don’t want to see unrestrained growth, but we do need to see growth that encourages investment into our region.”
Alysha Bates, president of the Langdon and District Chamber of Commerce, echoed those sentiments, adding the hamlet was on track to exceed the population limit.
Janet Ballantyne, representing Rocky View Forward, was the sole person who spoke in opposition to the amendments. Ballantyne said she was not necessarily opposed to the content of the proposed changes, but to the process that was undertaken.
“You’re already committed to a full review of the County Plan, and it’s not at all obvious why these specific amendments need to be fast-tracked forward in advance of that review,” she said. “That review will include far more meaningful consultation with the public in general than the consultation on these specific amendments.”
According to Ballantyne, removing the policies – which were included in the County Plan following “fulsome” consultations with residents – ahead of the review was “foolhardy,” and sent the message council had already made up its mind.
The City of Airdrie, the City of Calgary and the Town of Cochrane also expressed concerns with the amendments, Zaluski noted, with Calgary and Cochrane sending letters to RVC. According to Cochrane’s letter, “the proposed amendments have regionally-significant implications,” and both Calgary and Cochrane said the amendments seemed “premature” in light of RVC undertaking a comprehensive review of its Municipal Development Plan.
Calgary further questioned the need to remove hamlet population caps, with only Langdon currently sitting between 5,000 and 10,000 residents – well below the cap at 5,364.
According to Reeve Greg Boehlke, approving the amendments – particularly the removal of population limits – was necessary ahead of the full review so as not to stifle growth while that project is undertaken. He said the limits have proven to discourage business from moving into the area.
“There’s potential for businesses to move in in the next year and a half or so, when the fulsome plan is done,” he said.
After the public hearing was closed, council voted 8-1 on a motion by Coun. Jerry Gautreau to add criteria requiring business developers submit technical studies and contribute to levies when submitting applications pertaining to sites in the vicinity of business ASPs. Reeve Greg Boehlke, who felt the wording was too vague, voted against the motion.
“I generally support this language,” Coun. Kevin Hanson said. “I think it’s responsible and I think it will help keep development in the ASPs, but will allow special cases to be considered.”
Council then voted unanimously to grant first and second readings, and to direct administration to forward the amendments to the CMRB.
If CMRB administration recommends the amendments for approval, according to Zaluski, they will be circulated among the member municipalities for 28 days. If all municipalities agree with the amendments, they will be deemed approved and can return to council for third reading. If a member municipality does not agree with the amendments, however, Zaluski said they will go to the board for a decision.