Town ready to talk growth
Foothills: Okotoks wants annexation done this year
By: Darlene Casten
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013 06:00 am
Plans by the Town of Okotoks to complete annexation by the end of the year will not happen, according to the MD of Foothills reeve.
Foothills MD Reeve Larry Spilak, said he is pleased the Town is ready to rewrite their agreement over future development after a year of trying to engage the Town in talks on the issue, but added their timeline is too aggressive.
Okotoks council met with its MD counterpart in mid-January to discuss annexation and the Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP). The IDP is a joint agreement between the MD of Foothills and Town of Okotoks outlining how development will happen on their shared borders.
A year ago the MD informed the Town of Okotoks a new IDP needed to be written and they wanted to opt out of the existing agreement.
Okotoks council repeatedly put off requests to rewrite or scrap the IDP while they debated their no-growth policy. In September Okotoks council voted to remove the 30,000 population cap and proceed with annexation to allow future growth.
Last week they sent a letter to the MD stating they were now ready to sit down and talk about the IDP.
The IDP will set out where Okotoks wants to see new growth. In the current IDP there are no specific areas indicating where Okotoks wants to grow. The decision by the Town to remove the population cap and annex enough land for the next 30 years has essentially voided the current IDP, Spilak said, forcing the Town of Okotoks to re-write the document.
“We had to wait for them to have a purpose and now they have it so we can work on it now,” Spilak said.
The IDP has been a bone of contention between Okotoks and MD since the Town said the document didn’t allow for the proposed Wind Walk development. The 457-home community is slated for an area just south of Okotoks and Town officials and some residents feared it would have put pressure on Town services.
Okotoks filed an injunction trying to have the proposed development quashed, but a judge ruled in the MD’s favor and Okotoks appealed that decision. The appeal decision is still pending.
Spilak said it is now time to put all that behind them and work out a new IDP.
However, he said it is impossible to meet Okotoks’ timelines.
Spilak said Town officials indicated they wanted to have the annexation process complete by the end of 2013, but he said the process will likely take closer to three years.
A new IDP has to be written before the annexation process can begin, he said.
“The first step is to create an IDP,” Spilak said. “From there the annexation plan is quite simple.”
The MD of Foothills just wrapped up an annexation agreement with the Town of High River, Spilak said, and the process took two years with an IDP already in place.
He said the MD must consult with its residents after Okotoks identifies what areas they would like to acquire for future growth.
“You need to have everybody at the table and involved,” Spilak said. “We think this (community consultation) is one of the most important aspects of the IDP and annexation.”
Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson agreed the IDP must be rewritten.
“(The IDP) is definitely not serving the MD’s needs and its not serving our needs either,” said Robertson.
Robertson said he believes steps to begin the annexation process can happen at the same time the IDP is being worked out.
He said the relationship between the Town and MD is amicable and they don’t need to involve a mediator or take other steps outlined in the IDP dispute resolution process like making an appeal to the Municipal Government Board.
“I believe we will be able to work something out,” he said.
Okotoks and the MD have been able to work out other intermunicipal agreements, including one that sees the MD pay an additional $500,000 for Okotoks services accessed by rural residents and they have partnered on the regional field house near Aldersyde.
However, the proposed Wind Walk development slated on the south side of Highway 7 continues to be a cause of contention between the MD and the Town of Okotoks and Robertson said he believes Wind Walk is behind the MD’s push to get rid of the IDP.
“We have a very friendly relationship with one anomaly,” Robertson said, referring to the dispute over Wind Walk.