Regional plan still concerns Foothills MD
Foothills: New draft document clarifies controversial governance rules
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 10:48 am
The door remains open to rural municipalities to sign onto a new version of a Calgary regional development program, but the Foothills MD council is not convinced it will benefit the rural municipality.
Foothills MD Reeve Larry Spilak said the revamped plan is not enough to make him change his mind on the document or support the MD once again becoming part of the Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP), which is expected to guide development in the Calgary area for the next 60 years.
“From what we can ascertain from this, there are really no benefits to Foothills from this plan,” said Spilak. “Really, it’s more geared primarily to urban communities and it’s a good plan for urban communities.”
The CRP has developed an updated version of the Calgary Metropolitan Plan (CMP) and it’s expected a final draft of the plan will be approved by the end of June. Following ratification by the CRP, there will be a two-year period where future priority growth areas outlined in the plan
will be finalized.
The Calgary region is currently home to more than 1.2 million people. This number is expected to grow by an additional 1.6 million people and 700,000 jobs by 2076.
The CRP first adopted the plan in 2009 and it outlines steps to support economic development, identify future growth areas and provide regional water and transit services to communities in the area.
The MD of Foothills didn’t sign on to the plan and withdraw from the partnership over concerns about the CRP’s voting structure and densities in new development in the foothills area.
Spilak has seen the new draft and MD council hasn’t determined a formal position yet.
He said he would be willing to support some form of associate membership with the CRP that does not tie the municipality to the metropolitan plan.
“We’re happy to accommodate, but we don’t want to be dictated to,” said Spilak.
The new version of the plan clarifies where the double majority voting system will take effect when consensus can’t be reached. For a vote to pass the governance system requires support from two thirds of the CRP’s 14 members representing 50 per cent of the region’s population. This has been criticized as giving Calgary a veto because the vast majority of the region’s population is in the city.
The new version of the plan stipulates the voting rules will only apply to amendments to the CMP and decisions regarding regional transit, water and wastewater systems.
The clarified voting rules address one of the MD’s concerns, but Spilak said it doesn’t go far enough.
The MD wanted the partnership to specify whether the double majority would only apply to regional services.
Spilak is still concerned it will also cover changes to the plan.
“What that tells me is that it allows the supermajority, the governance model, to change or amend the plan in any way they wish to do in any time they wish to do it,” he said.
Spilak also wanted another layer in the voting structure protecting rural interests by giving rural municipalities a veto over land use decisions in their area.
The new draft of the plan retains requirements for higher densities of eight to 10 units per acre in future growth areas, which includes Heritage Pointe, DeWinton, Davisburg and Heritage Heights.
He said he is still concerned about the proposed higher density, urban development in the MD. Spilak added the MD wants to identify future urban growth areas in co-operation with Calgary and the CRP, but it doesn’t want them imposed.
“They’ve outlined now where they’d like to see the growth occur,” he said. “Our has always been to not identify those growth areas.”
The new version of the plan also allows extension of water services to institutional users, such as schools.
One addition to the plan is the plan envisions extension of water services to small hamlets in the Wheatland County to support the provincial water for life strategy.
He said the MD doesn’t need water servicing, as has been afforded Wheatland County in the plan.
“As far as Foothills goes, we don’t require that,” he said. “We have our own water sources for the most part here.”
The fate of Okotoks’ population cap won’t be decided by the time the CRP is expected to approve a final version of the plan next month. Okotoks council is scheduled to make a decision about growth in September.
Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson said the decision can still be incorporated into the plan during the CRP’s two-year transition period.
“We have two years in which to do modifications,” said Robertson, who is also the partnership’s secretary treasurer.
As well, Robertson said the CRP’s commitment to respect whatever decision town council makes still stands.
CRP executive director Colleen Shepherd said the partnership will work with Okotoks in whatever decision it makes.
As for the MD, she said the door is open to the rural municipalities to rejoin the plan.
Shepherd said the CRP tried to address some of the concerns over the double majority voting structure with the new plan. She said concerns the plan impacts local autonomy are not warranted because there are few areas that would fall under a regional scope.
“The rural municipalities did indicate that they wanted to know what was clearly in scope and out of scope,” said Shepherd. “It also helps us, of course. We do think it addresses and clarifies what we mean for what comes under the voting structure.”