Chasing Wind Walk decision a waste of money

By: By Wheel Staff

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 25, 2013 06:00 am

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After chasing an elusive and expensive dream, the Town of Okotoks should put the Wind Walk decision to rest and move on.

On Dec. 19 the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the Town’s request it hear its legal challenge over the MD of Foothills’ 2010 decision to approve the Wind Walk development’s area structure plan (ASP).

The decision by the Supreme Court comes as a surprise to no one. Except, perhaps, the Town of Okotoks, as it seemed they were the only entity that believed their request had any chance of being heard by Canada’s highest court.

Okotoks council, with the advice of their lawyers, elected to proceed to the Supreme Court even though most people in the community looked at the decision as at best hopeless and at worst a blatant waste of taxpayers’ money.

Mercifully, the decision brings to an end a three-year legal battle between Okotoks and Wind Walk, a development of 458 homes proposed on the southeast corner of Highway 7 and the Dump Road. Alberta Foothills Properties is the developer of the Wind Walk project, which is an environmentally conscience project with television personality Mike Holmes as the pitchman.

However, the battle came at a cost to the Town. Not only did the Supreme Court decision quash any further legal avenues for Okotoks, but it also ordered the Town to pay all of the MD of Foothills’ legal fees.

As a result, the Supreme Court challenge could well cost Okotoks more than $20,000. Both municipalities estimated their legal costs at $10,000.

This is on top of the costs the Town incurred on its previous challenges.

The battle began in 2010 when Okotoks appealed MD council’s approval of the Wind Walk ASP to the Court of Queen’s Bench saying the plan conflicts with the intermunicipal development plan. 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 went to the Alberta Court of Appeals, which ruled against Okotoks in June.

Still not satisfied, the Town took the case to the Supreme Court in September.

The Town also lost an appeal to the provincial Municipal Government Board over the development in 2012.

All told, Okotoks spent more than $100,000 on the legal battle it waged against Wind Walk.

Granted, council has the right to stand up for its best interests, especially when it feels another municipality is encroaching or pushing unwanted development onto its doorstep.

Okotoks was well within its rights to initiate a legal challenge, if to achieve nothing else than a show of strength.

However, council should know when enough is enough. It fought the good fight and it is time to consider whether or not it prudent use of taxpayer money and staff time.

Hopefully, this was nothing more than a costly lesson for the new council, and it did not do irreparable harm to the relationship between two neighbouring municipalities about to embark on annexation negotiations.


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