By Marianne Cole
CCTA Welcomes New Board Member
At our Annual Meeting on November 9, 2020 we welcomed a new member, Tim Plante from the Arbutus area to our slate of Directors. Tim operates Alhambra Vacuum service and is also on the local Blue Mountain Power Corp. Board. We certainly welcome a new, younger, voice to our group. Another change in the board was the movement of Helge Nome from Director to Vice President. Other positions remained as follows: President: Marianne Cole; Secretary: Susan Durand; Treasurer: Pat Butler; Directors: Al Gaetz, Jim Foesier, Larry Titford, and Jim Pearson. Another important decision made at the meeting was to change the regular meeting dates to the third Wednesday of the month. This will eliminate conflicts with holiday Mondays.
At the December 8th Council meeting there was significant discussion on matters related to broadband/improving connectivity in the County. In the end Council passed one motion to “approve the engineering of County wide fiber to the premises for 80% of the populated area within Clearwater County for grant writing purposes commencing with the rapid responses applications due January 15, 2021.” The engineering will provide more valuable information on the action and related costs of providing fibre optic cable to residences in a large part of the County.
A second motion “that Council approves the preparation and submission of a grant application to the January 15, 2021 Universal Broadband Fund intake deadline for a fibre construction project that includes backbone extension and fibre to as many premises as can be accommodated within the $5million maximum project size for Rocky Mountain House to Ricinus” was defeated. A couple of the points mentioned in opposition to the motion noted that it would be difficult for administration to adequately gather the necessary information for the grant application in such a short time, and that the extra staff time might not be positively used in light of the fact that the grant application is already over-subscribed, lessening our chances of receiving any benefit.
With the engineering information, however, we hope that we will be better prepared for further government grant funding as it becomes available.
Council met for two days of budget deliberations on December 16th and 17th. Highlights from the Capital Budget included a reduction of $8, 472, 205 (17.1%) from the 2020 budget ($49, 480, 186) to $41, 007, 981 for 2021. The proposed Operating Budget for 2021 could, on the other hand, see an increase of $3, 707,911 (6.5%). Interesting proposed reductions in this part of the budget included $44, 570 (8.3%) for councillor remuneration as well as reduced spending for the office of the CAO as well as agriculture. On the other hand increases are proposed for public works, corporate services, planning, and emergency services. It will be interesting to see what the actual 2020 numbers are when the audited statements are available later this spring. The question always remains as to how much our county income has been/will be reduced and what implication that has for taxes in 2021
The process for reviewing our Municipal Development Plan has now been going on for almost a year. This is a document that sets forth the guidelines for land use and development for the next 10 years or more, and has the potential to impact each one of our county residents. The most recent draft was just posted on the County’s website on Monday, January 4th but a hard copy can be picked up at the County office. Because of Covid19 the office is closed to the public but you can call ahead and someone will bring you a copy to the door.
There are some very significant proposed changes to the current MDP, namely:
· More seemingly general ambiguous guidelines as the words “shall” have often been changed to “may”. (e.g. While Clearwater County prefers that industrial and commercial developments be located in a business park, they may approve such for outside a planned business park.)
· Overall reduction in recognizing the value of conserving agricultural land. The conservation of agricultural land has been removed as a goal in the natural capital section (where it was #1 in the 2010 document) and is not stipulated in the agriculture section of this current draft either.
· Proposed allowance of 3 separate titles per quarter, along with the potential for a 4th title. This means there could be up to 3 subdivisions per quarter AND there is absolutely no stipulation of size restrictions on the parcels to be sub-divided.
· Aggregate and resource extraction is proposed to be under a Direct Control District, meaning that County Council alone will be the decision maker for all such applications. This means that in the event of a decision on a development permit application that is unfavorable to either the developer or area residents, there is NO OPPORTUNITY FOR AN APPEAL. (See MGA, Section 641.4-a)
These are just some of the more troublesome guidelines in the new draft of the MDP and it is absolutely crucial that people become involved in expressing their opinion. Because of Covid19 restrictions the County has organized 8 “virtual” open houses starting on January 25th. This means that you can go on your computer, listen to a presentation and then ask questions. You can check Page 28 of the January 6, 2021 Western Star for all dates and times. Such an opportunity is better than nothing but it is hardly as effective as in-person meetings. There are many residents in our County that either do not have computers or have such limited connectivity that a virtual meeting is impossible. IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF A DOCUMENT THAT HAS THE POTENTIAL TO AFFECT ANY RESIDENT OF CLEARWATER COUNTY IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT EVERYONE HAS EQUAL OPPORTUNITY TO GATHER INFORMATION AND EXPRESS THEIR OPINION. THE PAUSE BUTTON MUST BE PRESSED ON THIS PROCESS UNTIL SUCH TIME AS OPEN MEETINGS ARE ALLOWED. WE URGE YOU TO CONTACT YOUR COUNCILLOR AND ASK FOR THIS PAUSE.
Thoughts for the new year
“There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” C.S. Lewis “Learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow.” Albert Einstein
Due to Covid restrictions being extended there will be no meeting on January 20, 2021. We hope for one on February 17, 2021 at 7:30PM at Arbutus Community Hall.
Marianne Cole, Helge Nome, Susan Durand, Pat Butler, Jim Foesier, Al Gaetz, Larry Titford, Jim Pearson, and Tim Plante.