Mediation over regional plan seen as positive

Foothills: Reeve Larry Spilak sees potential changes as positive

By: Don Patterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 09, 2014 06:00 am

Barry Williamson, Calgary Regional Partnership chairman, says the results of a mediation between the organization and rural municipalities outside the city are positive.
Barry Williamson, Calgary Regional Partnership chairman, says the results of a mediation between the organization and rural municipalities outside the city are positive.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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Most of the MD of Foothills’s concerns over a plan to guide growth in the Calgary region over the next 60 years were resolved through a provincially organized mediation session last year.

However, the MD’s reeve said councillors still need to discuss the results of the mediation with the Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP) and the Calgary Metropolitan Plan (CMP) before deciding whether the MD will rejoin the partnership.

MD Reeve Larry Spilak said changes proposed for the CMP address many of the MD’s concerns, particularly regarding voting rules and urban growth in the foothills.

“It looks like it may be going in the right direction,” he said.

The MD of Foothills and Rockyview County withdrew from the CRP when the CMP was approved in 2009. The two rural municipalities pulled out over concerns about the group’s voting structure, which many argued gave Calgary a veto and plans for high-density developments.

The Province brought the CRP and the two rural municipalities together for mediation last year in an attempt to resolve the dispute. The mediation wrapped up last summer and a report on the outcomes and recommendations was made public last week.

The mediation process saw the CRP and the two rural municipalities agree on a number of areas.

The MD also won a key concession to get areas identified under the CMP for future development south of Calgary removed from the plan. Instead, the MD will work with the CRP to identify which areas will be targeted for urban growth in the coming decades.

One of the recommendations clarifies the CRP will not have any power over land use decisions made by its members.

There was no agreement on the voting model used by the organization, but the mediation process was able to narrow down two options the provincial government will be asked to decide on.

At present, for a vote to pass, it must be approved by two-thirds of the CRP’s members representing at least 50 per cent of the region’s population. This has been widely criticized as giving the city of Calgary a veto.

Under changes proposed during the mediation municipalities would get a veto over changes to the CMP that would adversely affect them.

Spilak said this was one of the most important changes for the MD because it will allow the MD to protect its autonomy.

“That was probably the biggest thing that we’ve been fighting for in the past six years is the fact that we wanted our autonomy to remain in place and not have another level of government come in and dictate to our rate payers,” he said.

A move to allow the MD and CRP to work together to identify future urban growth corridors is another important change, Spilak said. This change addresses a concern that growth corridors were created without input from landowners.

“We recognize that they will need growth areas, but now we will sit down with them and work through it and include the landowners at the same time,” he said.

The proposed changes to the CMP still need to be approved by the CRP, and the plan still needs to be approved by the provincial government.

Spilak said council hasn’t discussed whether the recommendations are enough to get the MD to rejoin the CRP. He wants to see what an updated version of the CMP will look like. As well, he said the mediation was held before last year’s municipal election and council still needs to discuss the outcome of the mediation before it makes any decision.

CRP chairman Barry Williamson said mediation process and recommendations are a positive step.

He said it’s important for the rural municipalities to get back to the table to work with the rest of the region.

“What you’re seeing is a good result, I think, in terms of us moving forward,” said Williamson, who is also a member of Turner Valley Town council.

He said the CRP has always maintained that the city never had a veto and a small number of municipalities representing a minority of the region’s population could’ve turned down decisions.

Yet, Williamson said the provision of a local veto is an important concession from the CRP for rural municipalities.

“It’s a good one I think to get the MDs in place,” he said.

Alberta municipal affairs minister Ken Hughes said he appreciates the work the CRP and rural municipalities to try to come together to resolve outstanding issues over the plan.

“I supported the results of the mediation exercise and what the party’s agreed to. I understand they couldn’t get 100 per cent agreement on a voting model, but they agreed on a couple of options. That’s progress.”

Hughes said the Calgary region is growing quickly and municipalities need to be able to work together to be prepared.

“We’re all going to be living together here for a long time and I encourage the leadership in the communities to continue to work together to plan for the long-term interest of Albertans in this area,” he said.


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