Supreme Court dismisses Wind Walk appeal
Okotoks: Decision exhausts Towns legal options over development
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Thursday, Dec 19, 2013 06:33 pm
Okotoks’ legal fight against the controversial Wind Walk development has come to an end.
The Supreme Court dismissed the Town’s request it hear its legal challenge over the MD of Foothills’ 2010 decision approving the development’s area structure plan (ASP) on Dec. 19.
The decision marks the end of a more than three-year legal fight over the Mike Holmes-led, 458-home development just outside the Okotoks’ south boundary.
Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson said the decision is disappointing, as the Town has long maintained the development is too big to be built in isolation on Okotoks’ border.
“Once again, I have to say having a town beside a town is not the most desirable thing,” he said.
The court also ordered the Town to cover the MD’s legal costs.
No reasons were provided for the decision to dismiss the application.
At issue was whether the Town faced a six-month timeframe to file an application to have the courts declare the Wind Walk Area Structure Plan (ASP) invalid. Both the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled Okotoks did not file its case in time, while Okotoks argued it did not face any such timeframe.
In 2010, Okotoks appealed MD council’s approval of the ASP to the Court of Queen’s Bench saying the plan conflicts with the intermunicipal development plan in place between the two municipalities. The Town sought to have MD council’s approval of the ASP declared invalid. In January 2012, a judge refused to hear the appeal because he determined Okotoks did not file an application to the courts within the required timeframe. The Town then appealed this decision to the Alberta Court of Appeals, which ruled against Okotoks in June. The Town then asked the Supreme Court to hear the case in September. The Town also lost an appeal to the provincial Municipal Government Board over the development in 2012.
With last week’s decision, the Town has run out of legal options to continue fighting the development.
It’s been a costly process to date, with the Town spending more than $100,000 in legal fees on its challenges of the development. In 2012, the Western Wheel reported the Town spent $80,000 on the Court of Queen’s Bench challenge and an appeal to the Municipal Government Board.
In July, Okotoks municipal manager Rick Quail estimated the Town spent $33,000 to take the case to the Alberta Court of Appeal. As well, the cost to ask the Supreme Court to hear the case was estimated to be between $5,000 and $10,000.
Quail said the Town needs to determine how much it will have to pay to cover the MD’s legal costs under the Supreme Court’s decision.
“I need to consult with legal counsel,” he said.
While the legal challenges have ended, the development’s fate has not yet been sealed.
Robertson noted Wind Walk still does not have a water supply confirmed.
The MD of Foothills and developer Alberta Foothills Properties have applied for provincial approval of a plan to approve a water license transfer to provide water for Wind Walk, as well as two others, with a pipeline from the Highwood River near Aldersyde.
As well, the Town has also included the Wind Walk site in its application to annex land from the MD of Foothills.
Robertson said he wants to convince Wind Walk’s developers it would be better for the community to proceed as part of the Town of Okotoks, rather than as part of the MD.
“By tying into the Town’s water and sewer systems and all our infrastructure, and a comprehensive planning with regard to infrastructure, I think there’s a lot of pluses to being inside the town,” he said.
MD Reeve Larry Spilak said he is not surprised by the court’s decision and hopes the legal challenges are finally over.
“I hope they realize that the MD of Foothills is in compliance with all the rules and regulations surrounding redesignation and subdivision and this is positive proof of it,” he said.
Spilak said he is pleased the MD was awarded costs and estimated the MD spent about $10,000 on the Supreme Court challenge. However, he said the process cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The MD has maintained it would oppose attempts by the Town to annex land south of Highway 7 and it remains to be seen if Okotoks will be able to convince Wind Walk’s developers to support annexation.
Spilak said the Town will receive tax dollars from Wind Walk residents through a cost sharing agreement between Okotoks and the MD.
“That development would bring in millions of dollars to the Town of Okotoks to pay for infrastructure, to pay for recreation,” he said.