Council back to square one on school, playground zone debate

Okotoks: Issue could still come back to the table next month

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014 03:53 pm

A vehicle passes through a school zone on Milligan Drive.
A vehicle passes through a school zone on Milligan Drive.
Wheel File Photo

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Okotoks councillors chose made a decision not to decide on changing school and playground zone times in town.

At Monday’s town council meeting, council opted to abandon a draft of a bylaw which would have seen both school and playground zones be in effect from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“I just don’t like the conditions in this bylaw, I think 9 p.m. is the wrong time – it’s too early and too late depending on the time of year,” Coun. Carrie Fischer said.

It was the third time the issue has come up in council in as many months, the first being in June when council discussed making the change based on the fact that Calgary Council was anticipated to make the same decision.

Okotoks Council decided to hold off until their counterparts in the city made their decision. One of the main motivators for Okotoks councillors to make the change was to maintain consistency with Calgary.

When the topic came back up in the July meeting, Calgary council still had not made a decision yet so Okotoks council decided to push the decision again until the August 18 meeting, but prepared the bylaw so it would be ready to go into effect before school began in the fall if they decided to pass it.

Although Calgary did change its hours to be in effect from 7:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. – eliminating the one-hour after sunset rule – Okotoks council wasn’t convinced a 9 p.m. end time was right for Okotoks.

Coun. Matt Rockley was opposed to making any changes, saying he didn’t feel that residents would be supportive.

“Since this first came up I’ve been doing polls when I’ve been with groups of people and nobody wants this to be changed. I know we’re doing it in an effort to be more consistent, but people know the rules now and then you change them and you change them,” Rockley said.

“We are a separate municipality, I think motorists know they aren’t in the City of Calgary when they enter Okotoks.”

The cost of changing over the 97 school and playground zones would have been $4,000 and would have come into effect Jan. 1, 2015.

Okotoks resident Allen Jenkins spoke out against the proposed bylaw at the council meeting, and said he didn’t see why the changes were necessary.

“I don’t see the value in this particular bylaw, and I think council should stay with the status quo,” he said. “It seems to be working and certainly protects the children involved and I don’t see how it would benefit the children at all.”

The issue will now be reviewed by the Okotoks Public Safety committee.

One of the things Fischer felt wasn’t addressed was the impact on municipal enforcement. Fischer sits on the safety committee and said she was interested in hearing how RCMP and municipal enforcement felt the changes would impact their operations, and she questioned why the Town would bother making any changes if it can’t be sure the new rules would be enforced.

The committee will report back to council after their next meeting, and council can then choose to pursue the time changes if it feels it is necessary, but as of right now the bylaw has been abandoned and is not being considered.

“It depends on advice from the public safety committee,” Mayor Bill Robertson said. “School zones and playground zones have everything to do with public safety, so it’s probably an oversight that we didn’t refer to that committee to begin with. That should have been sent there first in my opinion.”

Coun. Tanya Thorn said she hopes that the committee is able to properly review the information and fill in some of the holes that were left.

“The question I would ask is ‘what’s the problem we’re trying to solve?’ I haven’t seen any data that says there’s currently a problem, so changing to make a change is not effective change,” she said. “Everyone always says we’re a bedroom community to Calgary. If we want to break that then we need to do our own thing.”


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