CMRB’s Greg Clark Presents to RVC Board

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The Calgary Metropolitan Regional Board (CMRB) is awaiting approval of its draft regional growth plan by Alberta’s Minister of Municipal Affairs in order to move forward with development in the region.

The Calgary Metropolitan Regional Board (CMRB) is awaiting approval of its draft regional growth plan by Alberta’s Minister of Municipal Affairs in order to move forward with development in the region.

According to CMRB Independent Board Chair Greg Clark, the minister plans to sit down with representatives from each of CMRB’s 10 municipalities to hear their comments and concerns about the growth plan before giving his approval.

After a presentation on CMRB on Jan. 11, members of Rocky View County Council (RVC) had the opportunity to ask Clark questions — and not all RVC councilors spoke favorably of the plan.

The CMRB came into being on January 1, 2018, with a mandate to promote long-term sustainability in the Calgary metropolitan area. The council includes representatives from the cities of Calgary, Airdrie and Chestermere, the towns of Cochrane, Okotoks, Strathmore and High River, and the municipal districts of Rocky View County, Wheatland County and Foothills County.

A requirement of the CMRB was that any statutory plan adopted after January 1, 2018 align with the CMRB growth plan. A draft growth plan was developed and approved in 2018 to facilitate development applications until the final growth plan is approved.

Member municipalities must submit their statutory plans, such as structure plans, land use plans, zoning schemes, etc., to the CMRB administration, which in turn reviews the plans against the plan growth plan and makes recommendations.

Because of the speed at which the draft growth plan was developed, the policies remain broad and subject to interpretation, explained Jordon Copping, CMRB’s chief executive.

Once the new growth plan is approved, all applications received after May 21, 2021 must align with the growth plan within one year.

Speaking to the RVC board on Jan. 11, Clark noted that the goal is for the next million people in the Calgary metro area to arrive in a more profitable region with less environmental impact.

So far, the CMRB has received 37 applications, with seven challenges. Five of the requests were denied, three were withdrawn and resubmitted, and two were recommended for denial.

The CMRB council, made up of all the mayors and reeves of the 10 municipalities as council members, has the final vote in any regional statutory application.

“If developments are proposed within the guidelines of the growth plan, there is no reason why applications should not be accepted,” explained Clark.

He added that the council’s voting structure is dictated by provincial regulations, requiring a two-thirds majority to vote in favor and must include populations from more than two-thirds of the region.

“At the board level, the requirement is that Calgary, with 84% of the region’s population, must vote in favor of the motion for it to pass. On the other hand, if Calgary doesn’t vote in favor because of its population, it won’t pass,” Clark said.

“But also, if Calgary wants to pass a motion, it requires another six votes from the other nine members. So there is a check and a balance in both directions.

A Dispute Resolution Service and Appeals Rules have been put in place for municipalities to use in case they want to appeal a decision on an application.

Through this appeals process, a regional assessment framework can be used to see if the application has met the requirements set out in the growth plan. It can then either go to the Land and Property Rights Tribunal, the former municipal government council, or return to the CMRB for a decision.

Division 5 Com. Greg Boehlke was convinced that if an appeal process had been in place before the five nominations were rejected, these elements would have been forwarded to an external committee and would have been accepted.

He said that with other municipalities able to refuse development within another municipality, the growth plan has become a political game.

“I believe in good planning and working with our neighbors,” Boehlke said. “I think everyone at RVC does it, but when you stick to a plan, which we’ve done according to board administration and third-party consultants, and then it gets to the board level and is denied by Calgary and his minions, it’s not good Planning. It’s political.

He added that he was happy that an appeal process had been put in place.

The plan’s growth structure directs development in municipalities to three priority areas, including Urban Municipalities, Joint Planning Areas and Hamlet Growth Areas. Joint planning areas are areas identified with growth potential requiring strong inter-municipal collaboration.

The four joint planning areas include Airdrie/Calgary/Rocky View County, Calgary/Chestermere/Rocky View County, Foothills/Okotoks and High River/Foothills.

These priority growing areas are where maintenance will be a priority.

“Our region is 9,000 square kilometres. We cannot concentrate on providing services in the 9,000 square kilometres. But by serving priority growth areas, it gives us the ability to work collaboratively, to make decisions in what makes the most sense on either side of the municipal border,” Copping explained.

Through the plan, employment zones will be directed to these priority growth areas, but may be located outside the zones in certain circumstances, such as agriculture and Springbank Airport.

Statutory plans approved before Jan. 1, 2018, through May 21, 2021, are not subject to the policy requirements of the regional growth plan unless they are significantly amended at the regional level, Copping explained.

According to the presentation, the CMRB growth plan results in a 27% reduction in carbon per household, a 23% reduction in water consumption per household, a 36% reduction in the cost of new infrastructure, a 41% reduction in land consumption and 31% % reduction in vehicle-kilometres per household.

The region has approximately 1.589 million inhabitants.

The council is expected to ensure environmentally sound land use planning, growth management and efficient land use, and to develop policies regarding the coordination of regional infrastructure investment and service delivery.

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