Wednesday, October 3, 2018

IN THE NEWS


Community Peace Officer Program
At County Council meeting on Tuesday, September 25th, Council reviewed the CPO report and program including statistics and operation. Currently there are 3.5 CPO positions as council had voted in January not to hire for the 5th, vacant position. Instead they had directed Administration to review the impacts of the reduction in positions. The report was presented and council has now directed Administration to bring back the 5th position as part of the 2019 budget discussions.

Bylaw Amendment Hearing
Clearwater County Council will be addressing an amendment to their “Cannabis Retail Sales & Cannabis Production Facilities” Bylaw at a Public Hearing on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 9:00AM in Council Chambers. This hearing comes following a July 24th hearing that dealt with Element GP Inc.’s proposal to establish a cannabis production facility along Hwy. 22 about halfway between Caroline and Sundre. During that hearing it was noted that this development contravened the set-back restrictions written in the Cannabis Bylaw established by this council in March 2018.

Consequently, on August 28, the Planning Department brought forward proposed amendments to that Land Use Bylaw. Council then proceeded to pass First Reading of the amendments and scheduled a Public Hearing for October 9th, prior to passing 2nd and 3rd reading.

The contentious part of the original bylaw was the part where it stated, “All cannabis production facilities applying for a development permit on an industrial parcel not located within a business park must be located outside a 300m. radius from a property boundary that has any of the following attributes…” . The attributes include a residence, school, church, recreation facility, etc..

The new proposed amendment will remove the words, “a property boundary that has ”. This effectively permits a cannabis operation to be much closer to the above mentioned facilities, allowing it to go almost anywhere in the rural part of the county.

By comparison, neighboring counties with already established bylaws on this are much more restrictive. Red Deer and Mountain View Counties allow cannabis production facilities only in business or industrial parks. In Ponoka County any cannabis related development is under “Direct Control”---dealt with by council directly. Lacombe and Brazeau are in the process of developing their bylaws on this matter.

These cannabis production facilities are normally large (55,000 Sq. Ft. plus) facilities with accompanying traffic, noise, lighting, odor, and security concerns. We encourage everyone to express their opinion on where you feel they should be allowed. Call your councillor. Write a letter/e-mail regarding your opinion. ABOVE ALL, TRY TO COME TO THE PUBLIC HEARING ON OCTOBER 9TH.



RANT
It is particularly disturbing to me that a very pro-active, reasonable, justifiable Land Use Bylaw established by this council, is now being considered for amendment…all because the current wording would prevent a company out of Calgary from establishing a large marijuana “grow-op” in their chosen location, though it has been suggested they would be welcome in any of the industrial parks in the county. There has been significant opposition expressed by residents in the area and the current bylaw provided them with valid grounds for fighting the development.

However, in the proposed amendment the restrictive words would be deleted allowing this company, and potentially any others, to establish anywhere they wish in the county.

Throughout each of the development steps to date, the concerns of the adjoining neighbors as well as other residents of the county have gone unheeded…all in the face of “economic development”. The comments/concerns from long-standing, honorable taxpayers/supporters of this county have been completely ignored in favor of an unknown, unproven, upstart company heralding large financial benefit.

It reminds me of the age old saying, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”

Coming Events:
October 9, 2018, 9:00AM, Public Hearing, Council Chambers

October 11, 2018, 7:30PM, Regular CCTA Monthly Meeting, Arbutus Hall

November 8, 2018, 8:00PM, Leslieville Community Hall, Special Event Speaker on Rural Crime Issues

Thursday, September 13, 2018

IN THE NEWS

Element GP Inc Cannabis Production Facility 
 Clearwater County Council has taken the first step to allow Element GP Inc., out of Calgary, to establish a major cannabis production facility approximately ½ mile north of the junction of SH 587 (the Bowden Road) and Hwy. 22. On July 24, council passed a motion to allow approximately 40 acres to be re-designated from Agriculture to Light Industrial.
On August 17th Element submitted a development permit application for their proposed 58,600 SQ. FT cannabis cultivation and extraction facility to be erected on this re-designated land. That application will now be assessed/evaluated by the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) at a meeting that must be held within 40 days of the application submission.
Interestingly, this development does not comply with the Land Use Bylaw passed by this council in March. The stumbling block is the 300m. setback restriction from a “property boundary” that has a residence and/or other noted facilities. To counter that, Council passed first reading, on August 28th, to revise the original LUB and remove the words “property boundary” so the setback would merely state “300m. from a residence”, etc..
A public hearing on this matter will be held on October 9, to be followed potentially by second and third reading. The questions remain for MPC, “Will/Can they allow the development permit in spite of the current LUB? Will they turn it down, as they should, given the current restrictions?? Or Will they postpone a decision until after the October 9th public hearing??
Approximately 50 people attended the public hearing in July to voice their unanimous opposition to the building of this facility.


Leslieville/Condor Fire Halls
 At their regular council meeting on August 28th, Council accepted information and directed administration to proceed with gathering more figures and specific information on the development of these two facilities. Current plans propose a new Public Services Building for Condor and a re-purposed Public Works building for an enlarged/improved facility in Leslieville. The total cost of the two facilities is approximately $6,000,000. Discussion took place on how costs might be trimmed, with administration to come back with answers to that. The Condor project is slated to commence in 2019 and the Leslieville one in 2020.


Broadband Improvements
 Council is proposing to submit a resolution to the fall convention of the Rural Municipalities Association requesting that organization urge the provincial and federal governments to support and fund improved internet service to rural areas. Council will be seeking support for their resolution from other rural municipalities.


ROSES
 Special bouquets of roses goes out to members of our Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Services who have gone to help fight fires in B.C.. Not only do we appreciate all their efforts and dedicated service here but we applaud their willingness to share their energies with our neighbors in their significant struggles.


Coming Events
September 13, 2018, 7:30PM, Arbutus Community Hall, Regular monthly meeting 

October 9, 2018, Clearwater Council Chambers, Public Hearing re Land Use Bylaw on Cannabis 
Production AND Retail Facilities. (TIME TO BE ANNOUNCED)

October 11, 2019, 7:30 PM, Arbutus Community Hall, Regular monthly meeting

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

UPDATE ON ELEMENT GP INC’S DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL

By Marianne Cole

Element GP Inc., the Calgary based company proposing to develop a large cannabis production facility along Hwy. 22 south of Caroline, submitted a Development Permit Application to Clearwater County on August 17, 2018. This application will now be reviewed by our Municipal Planning Commission (MPC). They have 40 days from the date of submission to do that, meaning that the review must be done prior to September 26, 2018.

There have been significant concerns raised by neighbors with regards to this development proposal. They are particularly concerned about reduced land values as well as water issues, impact on wildlife which they enjoy on their land, and then all the effects of the facility--- lights, smell, noise, and traffic. Element has indicated that they will mitigate those last concerns but in speaking with a neighbor of the facility at Cremona, they are very real issues.

Perhaps of greatest significance is the fact that this facility, in this location, DOES NOT COMPLY with the Land Use Bylaw passed UNANIMOUSLY by this Council in March of this year. That bylaw stipulates a 300m setback restriction from a property boundary with a residence. In Element’s application there is a very clear diagram that shows setbacks from neighboring property boundaries of 87m. to 235 m.. Aside from clearly indicating non-compliance, the diagram is also lacking in information as no measurement is shown for a property, with a residence, lying across Hwy 22 to the east.

What is particularly disturbing is that the process is now in the hands of a MINORITY OF COUNCIL. There are only 3 councillors (out of 7) and 2 members at large on the MPC. They will review the application and will make a decision to either accept it, accept it with conditions, or refuse it. There will be no public hearing and the other councillors have no say (although we do not know what communication may or may not be taking place in the background).

WHAT CAN BE DONE?????
Any resident of Clearwater County can submit a Letter of Concern regarding this development BY FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2018. They can be hand delivered, sent by e-mail to admin@clearwatercounty.ca or mailed to Administration, Clearwater County, Box 550, Rocky Mtn. House, AB T4T 1A4.

CONCERNS MAY BE:
* Non-compliance with the Land Use Bylaw. If we allow this to go forward even though it does not follow the rules, we are opening the door to numerous other applications for any type of development anywhere in the county. According to the Land Use Bylaw the guidelines in it are established to promote “orderly development” within the county. This would open the door to chaos.
* Unanimous opposition to the development presented by neighbors at the Public Hearing in July. Their concerns went completely unheeded as council passed the land re-designation.
* Concerns with Element’s integrity. Their own published information states that they are “Coming Soon” and “will be built in Clearwater County”. This can be found in information on their own website that was set up long before the development permit application even went in.
* This leads one to question the validity of other statements they make with regards to water usage and community outreach.
* There certainly may be other concerns individuals have and I encourage you to contact people in the Cremona area who have first-hand experience with a similar facility.

ABOVE ALL, MAKE YOUR CONCERNS KNOWN BY SEPTEMBER 7, 2018. A FEW MINUTES NOW MAY PROVE VALUABLE FOR HOURS, MONTHS, OR YEARS TO COME.

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