By Marianne Cole
Municipal Development Review Process
As mentioned in our September Beacon, the Municipal Development Plan is under review. This is a very important document that will affect resident lives for the next 10-20 years. A number of issues have been raised related to public engagement.
There is a serious need for public meetings so everyone (residents, councillors, county staff, and the consultants) can openly hear the same information related to the concerns and comments on the proposed document. Allowing for only online or printed information restricts open dialogue. Furthermore, those avenues are not only very time consuming but also limit responses by those not technologically adept or well-served.
Timing for the gathering of information and providing responses has been extremely poorly planned. Public consultation (scheduled for August/ September) is occurring at a time when people are on holidays or very busy with haying and harvesting.
There was absolutely nothing in the special newsletter sent out in August showing the struck out clauses in the current plan. The removed clauses represent a drastic change in protecting agricultural land.
There is questionable validation for some of the proposed changes. In the special newsletter, the heading, “What we have heard so far…” is frequently used. This raises the questions, “Who have you heard from?”; “When?”; and “By how many?” At the County Council meeting on Tuesday, September 22, Reeve Tim Hoven noted that the Planning Department had received only 16 submissions to date regarding the MDP review. Were these received before the publication of the newsletter or after??? That is also only 1/10 of a per cent of our approximately 10,000 residents.
Comparing Clearwater’s opportunity with other local jurisdictions for public engagement during their MDP reviews, the following information shows we are seriously lacking. County of Wetaskiwin: Almost a 2 year process, 2008-2010. 3 sets of public meetings before, during, and after draft of document was done. County of Lacombe: 2016-2017 Total of 13 open meetings during 3 rounds of public engagement; total of 440 people in attendance; 469 surveys completed at meetings and online. County of Red Deer: MDP review just completed. Late 2019: 5, 145 surveys mailed out to residents; 1530 valid ones returned. 6 open house meetings held in early 2020. 4 more public input sessions held in August/September following draft completion. People could attend in person or via zoom.
Following a motion passed at our September 14th CCTA meeting a letter was written to our Clearwater County Council requesting that the MDP review process be halted until open public discussion could be held. Unfortunately, though submitted before agenda deadline, a copy of the letter was not included in the agenda package. It was discussed briefly during the CAO report but no motion was made to change the current process.
In a September 15th 2020 Clearwater County news release, it was reported that “Clearwater County Council was on hand to mark the ground-breaking of the Ferrier Acres Broadband Pilot Project, an approximately $1million initiative that involves the installation of over 15 kilometres of fibre optic cable from Rocky Mountain House to Ferrier Acres. The investment represents a major step for the Core Backbone Broadband Internet Project which aims to provide high-speed internet connectivity to a majority of residents and businesses in the County.”
The Ferrier Acres project is one of 6 that are proposed by the County to be completed within the next five years. Others include: 1. Rocky Mtn. House to Caroline, Sundre, and Olds (2020/21); 2. Rocky Mtn. House to Condor and Leslieville (2022); 3. Hwy. 22/12 to Brazeau & Wetaskiwin Counties (2023); 4. Ferrier to Nordegg (2024); and 5. Hwy. 22/12 to Lacombe County (2025).
The total cost of equipment/infrastructure is $19, 631,000 with an additional operational cost of $1, 030,000 for a total of $20, 661,000. While this is a significant cost there is a serious need for improved broadband service in the County and we commend Council and Administration for their forward thinking. There are, however, some issues of concern with the County’s plans and this will be brought forward at our up-coming CCTA meeting on October 5, 2020, at 7:30PM at Arbutus Community Hall.
Rocky Regional Airport
Word has just been received about the very unfortunate, untimely death of Ken Fowler and Hannelie Rosdal on Saturday, September 26th. Ken was the long-serving manager of the Rocky Regional Airport. He was a well-known and highly respected member of the aviation community, doing much to encourage tourism and economic development in our area. Our deepest sympathies go out to all.
With the current County Council and their dedication to cooperation and making responsible decisions for the benefit of County residents, it’s been several months since I’ve felt the need to rant. The current MDP review process, however, has changed that. I strongly feel that a document with the potential to seriously impact ALL residents must be developed through a process allowing for the greatest opportunity for OPEN dialogue with ALL parties involved. Sending out information via mail and computer, and allowing for only one way response via letters, emails and phone calls DOES NOT BEGIN TO EQUAL THE VALUE OF OPEN DISCUSSION. Questions cannot be publicly answered and all parties are not aware of the concerns people may have. Ultimately, the support for or against the proposal cannot be adequately evaluated.
I realize that Covid19 has thrown a “monkey wrench” into the process but open meetings can still be held either in person, via zoom, or both. Holding meetings in each division would likely reduce the numbers gathered in one place while increasing the opportunity for public engagement. OR the process could be postponed until such time as public meetings become more accessible. Ultimately, Clearwater County residents must be “awarded” the same privileges for input and response as those in other more accommodating jurisdictions.
Next monthly meeting, October 5, 2020, 7:30PM, Arbutus Community Hall