Thursday, August 2, 2018

LATEST NEWS RE CANNABIS PRODUCTION FACILITY

By Marianne Cole

Following a public hearing on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 county council unanimously voted in favor of rezoning 40 acres of agricultural land to light industrial in order to allow Element GP Inc. out of Calgary to continue the process of possibly developing a cannabis production facility about half way between Caroline and Sundre on the west side of Hwy. 22, just north of the Bowden Road intersection.

What does this mean?
Element will now proceed to subdivide the 40 acres. They will make application for the subdivision at the planning department and this will then be reviewed by the Municipal Planning Committee.
If that is successful they will then proceed with a development permit application which will again be reviewed by the MPC.

All power/control/decision making on those two steps rests with the Municipal Planning Committee. THE WHOLE COUNCIL WILL NOT HAVE OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE ANY INPUT/VOTING PRIVILEGES FROM NOW ON.

MPC members include councillors Darryl Lougheed, Tim Hoven, and Jim Duncan along with Members at Large Cheryl Dezall and Kelly Spongberg. Members of the public can submit letters of concern to the MPC (submit through the county’s mailing address or contact the council members on the committee directly).

Concerns
Allowing this development to proceed opens the door to other such operations anywhere in the county. This is exactly why this council passed a bylaw in March of this year---to prohibit cannabis production facilities to pop up anywhere. Highlights of that bylaw stated that council should direct these types of operations to industrial parks.

If not in an industrial park then there are set-back restrictions. This proposed location does not follow the set-back restrictions. By passing the first step (the re-designation) council has opened the door to the next steps, ignoring the very by-law they established, as well as allowing other applications to ignore county established bylaws.

What can be done now??
We encourage people to call their councillors to voice their opinion or send them an e-mail.
If the development permit is approved, any affected persons can Appeal the Decision which then will be heard by the Subdivision/Development Appeal Board in a public hearing.

Let’s voice our opinions NOW so it doesn’t go to that.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

DOUBLE STANDARD DECISION???

By Marianne Cole

I was both surprised and very disappointed by Clearwater County Council’s decision following the public hearing of July 24th to re-designate +/- 40 acres of agricultural land to light industrial. This land is located on the west side of Hwy 22, approximately half a mile north of the junction with SH 587, the Bowden Road. The application for re-designation was being made by Element GP Inc who wishes to establish a 55, 000 square foot micro-climate controlled cannabis production facility on the property.

Council chambers were packed with surrounding neighbors and other county residents. Numerous excellent presentations were given in opposition to the re-designation and an ad hoc show of hands indicated unanimous opposition. Arguments against the change focussed on concerns over loss of agricultural land, water usage, impact on wildlife, quality of life, traffic safety, emergency response times, and reduction of neighboring land values.

What was most surprising and disappointing was the seemingly clear disregard for this council’s own recently established Land Use Bylaw when they voted unanimously to allow the re-designation. (Note: Councillor Laing was absent.) The bylaw governing this proposal had been proactively passed in March 2018 to prevent this very situation of cannabis operations wherever in the county.
There are two applicable clauses in this document. Section 7.12 (1) states, “Clearwater County should direct cannabis production facilities to locate in a business park.” Various presentations noted the availability of industrial lots in the county, most notably the newly developed park in Caroline, a project funded by taxpayer dollars. It would seem fiscally responsible for council to seize the opportunity to retrieve some of those tax dollars by suggesting this potential operation establish there.

Also in the LUB section 7.12 (3) states, “All cannabis production facilities applying for a development permit on an industrial parcel not located within a business park must be located outside of a 300m. radius from a property boundary that has any of the following attributes; a. an existing residence…” With the potential re-designation/new subdivision property line, the facility would be within approximately 150m. of the property boundary that has two residences. Other properties with residences are immediately across the road to the north and east of the proposed site. Clearly this re-designation promotes a direct conflict with the LUB. Note: There is opportunity for this to be rectified with a refusal of the development permit but why would council encourage further time, expense and frustration by all involved when it could have all been solved with the refusal at this public hearing?

It seems council has not only ignored its own guiding documents but also the voice of the people, a cause that was repeatedly touted as being important during last fall’s election campaign.

Wikipedia defines a double standard as “the application of different sets of principles for similar situations.” One is left to wonder, as the process related to the approval of this cannabis production facility proceeds (the subdivision application, and the development permit application) will the guiding documents and earlier valued principles of this council be upheld or will the double standard continue?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Letter to Mountaineer Editor

Dear Editor,

I would like to make some follow up comments on your editorial in the July 17 edition titled "No more land bets for Clearwater County". At the conclusion of the article you state: "Clearwater County needs to develop a clear eyed plan for its future facilities, then stick to it"

In a democratic world, very hard to implement and not necessarily desirable.

At the last election, four new councillors came on board, replacing the previous dominant four, including the Reeve and Deputy Reeve. Following the installation of the new council a number of senior staff members left their employment with the County, or were made redundant in organizational changes.

The incoming council set a new direction for the county by scrapping the  $30 million development plan for new facilities north of Rocky and redirecting its attention towards improved internet service for county residents. More money was also made available for paving of county roads.

From my perspective, these are positive developments and should be commended.

Another planning area which Council needs to revisit is the Nordegg development plan which is pretty well stalled at this time due to lack of public interest in buying land within the town site. Hopefully, county residents will be engaged in reviewing this plan in the near future.

Helge Nome

Thursday, July 19, 2018

PUBLIC HEARING NOTICE

By Marianne Cole

 A Public Hearing will be held on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 at 9:00AM in County Council Chambers. The key points for the hearing are:

  To hear the proposal to re-designate 40 acres of land from agricultural to light industrial. Element GP Inc. is proposing to construct a 55,000 sq. ft. cannabis (marijuana) production facility on the property. This property is located along Hwy. 22, just north of SH587 (the Bowden Road), on the west side of the road.

 CONCERNS 
  Earlier Clearwater County passed a Land Use Bylaw that stated, “Clearwater County should direct cannabis production facilities to locate in a business park.” The Bylaw, however, does allow for such operations as a “Discretionary Use” on land zoned, “ Light Industrial”, hence the proposal for rezoning.

  In that Land Use Bylaw it also states in Section 7 that “All cannabis production facilities applying for a development permit on an industrial parcel not located within a business park, must be located outside of a 300m. radius from a property boundary that has any of the following attributes: (a) an existing residence.” The rezoned land would create a property boundary between it and the remainder of the land (with 2 residences on it) that falls within the above 300m. radius. Furthermore, immediately to the east across Hwy. 22 there is a property boundary that falls within the 300m. radius.

  The county has, itself spent money on developing an industrial park in Caroline and it would seem fiscally responsible to encourage new businesses to establish there. The Caroline business park would also be seemingly more accessible, being located on a highway leading directly to the Hwy 2 corridor.

  There are also other available industrial lots in the Pidherney’s Industrial Park along Hwy. 11 as well as Metal Dog Industrial Park north of Rocky on Airport Road. (Note: Developing in a business park requires a set-back restriction of only 50m radius from a property with an existing residence.)
  The County’s Municipal Development Plan states, “Clearwater County shall consider agriculture as the primary land use within the County.” The MDP also states, “Public input during the preparation of this plan clearly indicated the conservation of agricultural land and water as especially important to the residents of the County.”

  To re-designate 40 acres of agricultural land to industrial goes against the values in the above statements.

  Allowing this re-designation opens the door to innumerable other applications and the possibility of cannabis production facilities all across the county, a serious issue the county was trying to avoid with the earlier passing of their Land Use Bylaw and its definitely positive restrictions.

 In conclusion, there is also concern over the integrity/honesty/credibility of Element GP Inc. Upon researching info on this company I found the following: “Element GP Inc. (ELEMENT Cannabis Group) is a new cannabis producer and supplier who is building a high technology, micro-climate controlled, vertical grow, cultivation and extraction facility locate approximately 15km. north of Sundre, Alberta” How can they be advertising, on social media, that they are building a facility when there hasn’t been either a re-designation of the property or an approved development permit???

 ENCOURAGEMENT 
  PLEASE, if you have time and opportunity, check out the county website (Council Agendas) for the complete agenda package/info for the hearing on Tuesday. Please call if you need help or want more info. (Marianne at (403)729-2493) You may also want to google Element GP Inc. for more info as well.

 If possible, COME to the hearing and/or send your comments/concerns to: Rick Emmons, Chief Administrative Officer, Clearwater County, Box 550, Rocky Mtn. House, T4T 1A4; OR email Rick at remmons@clearwatercounty.ca, OR drop off your letter at the county office prior to Tuesday. Anyone can make a presentation/read their concerns at the hearing.

  PASS this information on to any of your friends or those involved with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Voice Your Opinion Rocky.

 HAVE A GREAT REMAINING SUMMER AND THE CCTA WILL BE BACK ON TRACK IN SEPTEMBER

Monday, May 14, 2018

Summary from Regional Fire Stations Public Engagement

Below is a quick summary of written comments received at Leslieville Open House (8), Condor Open House (5) and via the County’s website feedback form (11).


Question 1 - Open House helpful?
* Yes (10)
* Yes, hopefully not the last (2)
* Somewhat (1)


Question 2 – Desired Outcome?
* Two smaller stations (7)
* One combined larger station for efficiencies (5)
* One larger station in Leslieville and satellite station in Condor (2)
* Need to know costs (5)
* Does not like the selected location of one larger station (1)


Question 3 – What could have been done better?
* Need more data/cost estimates (5)
* More conceptual slides as to what single fire hall would look like (2)
* Use new website/promote it/Facebook (2)
* Continue with community engagement (1)
* More of a slant to building community (1)


Question 4 - Best part of OH?
* Hearing a variety of questions/comments/questions answered (4)
* Facilitator an awesome speaker/well spoken (2)
* Positive interactions between participants/ participant comments (2)
* Meeting neighbours (1)
* Support for firefighters (1)
* To be informed that the two halls work together and more trucks run to calls (1)


Other comments
* Use the land County owns to reduce cost of two stations (1)
* Use County land for one larger station in Leslieville with substation in Condor (1)
* Need another public meeting with building sizes, one and two, number of units to house (1)
* Local planning committee to look at blueprints and construction (1)
* Do not use water from sewer lagoon for firefighting. (2)
* It is better to have much help at fire, than not enough. (1)
* Need to know ballpark cost of halls (1)
* There is a social purpose and well-being to each community having a hall. (1)
* It will be hard to measure the social cost of fire hall in community. (1)
* Can one hall have a much larger bulk water storage? Availability of water is important. Maybe rural stations should have multiple tankers. (1)
* Concern with rural crime if one combined hall is built outside both communities. (1)
* Seemed to lean towards 1 station (1)
* Offer of land available for sale for one combined station (1)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

CLEARWATER COUNTY COUNCIL MEETING HIGHLIGHTS


By Marianne Cole

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The most notable highlights of the meeting are as follows:

1. Presentation by Mona Crocker, Executive Director, Rocky Learning Council
Mona outlined various “asks” that council promote: reading to kids, advocacy for raising the age limit to 25 for people requiring GED or high school course improvements(currently the age limit is 19 and getting the additional creditation above that age is very costly), improved high speed internet in the rural area, and encouraging the use of the Rocky Learning Council for various local courses.

2. Attendance by Roger Smolnicky, Director of Recreation and Community Services, Town of Rocky Mr. Smolnicky outlined the capital funding strategy for the North Saskatchewan River Park which included a request that the county match the town’s contribution of $200,000. The funds will be used to help over covered bleachers, water system, permanent washrooms, renos to the announcer and VIP boxes, a BMX track, and additional landscaping. The total value of these improvements would be $1, 200,000 to $1, 270, 000. The Rodeo Association and the Pro Chuckwagon Associations would contribute $150,000 in cash and $50,000 in donated materials, equipment, and labor. Then a matching CFEP grant for $600,000 would be applied for.
After discussion a motion was passed directing administration to write a letter of intent to the town that the county would provide $200,000 in the 2019 budget.

3. Leslieville/Condor Fire Halls
Regional Fire Chief, Steve Debienne, presented the results of the open house feedback surveys along with potential options/costs for either one facility or two. The survey comments indicated a slightly higher number of people favoring two facilities but many wanted more information on the potential costs of each option. 4 options with costs were presented to council:
Option 1: One Large Pre-engineered Station: Total cost $4, 200,000(***not including land purchase)
Option 2: Two smaller Pre-Engineered Stations: Total cost $6,000,000 ($3, 000,000 each)
Option 3: One Large Perma Column Station: Total cost $3, 200,000
Option 4: Two smaller Perma column Stations: Total cost $4, 600,000 ($2, 300,000 each)
Note: the pre-engineered structures use more steel in the structures while the perma column has more concrete and poles.
There was excellent, lengthy discussion as council brought up various concerns, points that need to be considered, and different options available. In the end a motion was passed unanimously, directing administration to obtain more specific information on costs for Option #4.

4. Tax Rate Bylaw
Council passed 3 readings to approve the tax rate bylaw that will see a 3% tax rate increase on residential properties and 6% on non-residential and farmland. It is noted in the agenda package that “the assessment base has increased overall, and therefore will show an increase in the overall tax collected for municipal purposes of $4.4 million.” Further it states, “An increase in 2018 tax rates will remain for the most part offset by the decrease in the school requisition.” (Note: The school requisition is set by the province.)

Broadband Public Engagement meetings:
Wednesday, May 23, 2018, 5:30-7:00PM, Nordegg Public Services Building
Monday, May 28, 2018, 5:30-7:00PM, Leslieville Community Hall
Tuesday, May 29, 2018, 5:30-7:00PM, Caroline HUB Community Hall

Monday, May 7, 2018

IN THE NEWS

1. 2018 Tax Rates
The 2018 tax rate structure was discussed at length at the April 24th council meeting. It was noted that assessments are down significantly, so in order to maintain similar tax revenues as in 2017, the tax rates would have to increase slightly. It was generally accepted that the residential rate (including small “mom/pop” businesses) could be increased by 3%. More discussion took place on the non-residential rates with comments being made that we want to attract businesses to Clearwater County so we shouldn’t be raising taxes in this category too much. In reply to that it was noted that our non-residential rates are lower than most of our surrounding jurisdictions and that a 6% increase would bring us in line with the area average. In the end, this matter was tabled to the May 8th council meeting to give administration time to draft a bylaw suggesting a 3% increase for residential properties and a 6% increase for non-residential.

2. Audited Financial Statements
The 2017 audited financial statements were presented and showed an annual surplus of $1, 469, 330. On the revenue side it was noted that there were less than budgeted municipal taxes collected but higher revenues from well drilling taxes. On the expense side there was higher administrative costs and this was in part due to the severance packages paid out with the “administrative restructuring”. Less than budgeted costs were noted in protective services, public works/roads, waste authority, land use/planning, and recreation. Currently the county has $79, 545, 063 as “restricted surplus” (reserves) which the auditor described as “moderate” compared to the county’s spending.

3. Phase 2 Broadband
Public Engagement Plan Plans are proceeding to host meetings with three different stakeholder groups: the general public, the Internet Service Providers (ISP’s), and the local business people. Suggestions have been made to host meetings in the southern and central areas towards the end of May. Suggested dates are May 23, 24, 27, and 28 with possible locations being James River, Caroline, and Leslieville. All meeting dates, times, and locations will be verified after checking on hall availabilities and will be advertised in local papers and on the county’s website.

4. Leslieville/Condor Fire Hall Plans 
There is no new information here as this matter was tabled until the May 8th council meeting so administration could gather more figures on the various options.

5. Manitok Energy Bankruptcy/County’s Loss
At the last CCTA meeting on April 12th, guest speaker Karl Zajes noted that Clearwater County is “out” over $500,000 dollars as a result of Manitok Energy declaring bankruptcy. Mr. Zajes had information listing the unsecured creditors involved in this case and noted that along with Clearwater County and other municipal jurisdictions, there are various local companies that are also affected. An article from the May 19th issue of The Red Deer Advocate entitled, “Municipalities fight for back taxes” listed Clearwater County along with Lacombe County and nine other municipalities involved in legal action.



ROSES: With Mother’s Day just around the corner we wish to send out very special bouquets of roses to all the mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers in our area. We want to recognize the most valuable contributions you make to our area with your untiring time, efforts, love, and dedication.

God could not be everywhere and therefore He made Mothers.” Rudyard Kipling
A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” Tenneva Jordan
A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.” Annonymous



Next meetings: Thursday, May 10, 2018, 7:00PM Leslieville Community Hall with guest speaker
                          Thursday, June 28, 2018, 7:30PM, Arbutus Community Hall, regular monthly     
                          meeting.