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

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.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Appointment of New CAO for Clearwater County

Clearwater County Council with newly appointed CAO Rick Emmons, front, between Councillors Thesesa Laing and Michelle Swanson. Back: Councillors Jim Duncan, Cammie Laird, Daryl Lougheed, Reeve John Vandermeer and Councillor Tim Hoven

News release by Clearwater County

(Rocky Mountain House, AB) – Following a three-month competitive recruitment campaign, Council is pleased to announce that Rick Emmons has been formally appointed to the position of Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the County, as of May 1, 2018.

 Council appointed Mr. Emmons as Interim CAO back in November, to allow time for a thorough recruitment process to unfold, in an effort to identify the best candidate for the important administrative role of CAO.

“Clearwater County has been fortunate to have Rick’s leadership and guidance over the last five months, and he has been instrumental in providing for business continuity, administrative stability and maintaining the County’s progressive momentum,” said Clearwater County’s Reeve John Vandermeer. “After our third-party candidate search concluded and Council’s thorough review of applicants, Rick certainly was the most qualified for the job due to his breadth of experience and passion for public service.”

 With 33 years’ experience in municipal government, Mr. Emmons was most recently the County’s Director of Planning and Development, previous to that Assistant Director of Public Works. Mr. Emmons has also worked in many other capacities over his long tenure with Clearwater County. He holds a designation as Certified Local Government Manager (CLGM), he completed a National Advanced Certificate in Local Authority Administration (NACLAA) from the University of Alberta and he has numerous other educational credentials specific to municipal administration.

 Reeve Vandermeer continued by saying, “Rick fosters an open and transparent administration and supports Council’s governance role. We thank him for stepping up to the plate and look forward to working with him for years to come.”

Friday, April 27, 2018

CLEARWATER COUNTY COUNCIL MEETING HIGHLIGHTS


By Marianne Cole

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Highlights of County Council meeting are as follows:

1. Leslieville/Condor Fire Hall
This matter was tabled until May 8th in order to allow administration more time to collect comparative figures on the different possibilities.

2. Phase 2 Broadband Public Engagement Plan
This refers to the county’s plans for working to improve internet/broadband service in the county. As mentioned in previous highlights, County Council plans to meet with three stakeholder groups: the general public, the Internet Service Providers (ISP’s), and the local business people. Plans are proceeding to host meetings in the southern and central areas of the county with meetings to be scheduled 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. We definitely encourage everyone to watch the local newspapers and check on the county’s website for more info. This is an issue that will affect everyone looking forward to the future.

3. Tax Rate Bylaw
Significant discussion took place on establishing property tax rates for the coming year. It was noted that assessments are down significantly so to maintain tax rates at the existing level would have resulted in a large drop in tax revenue. Discussion took place on efforts to keep the dollar amount that residences and small businesses pay similar to last year. With the reduction in assessment this could happen with a 3% increase in the mill rate. Discussion also took place on the non-residential (larger business) tax rate. Comments varied here as there was a concern about making these taxes too high and perhaps discouraging businesses from coming to Clearwater County. As the same time it was noted that our business tax levels are lower than surrounding jurisdictions and the suggested raise would still keep our rates equal to the average. In the end a motion was made to instruct administration to re-draft the tax rate bylaw with a 3% increase for residential properties and 6% for non-residential. This passed with a 5-2 split in votes with Councillors Hoven and Swanson opposing. A subsequent motion was passed to table the passing of the re-drafted bylaw to May 8th.

4. Audited Financial Statement/Auditor’s Report
Highlights here noted that the financial assets of the county increased by $7.7 million in the last year. This includes actual monetary assets as well as capital assets. The annual surplus for the year was just under $1.5 million making the total accumulated surplus now just under $80million. According to the auditor this is “moderate” compared to the county’s overall spending. Other notes of interest was the higher than budgeted administration costs but that was due to “administrative re-organization” and severance payouts. On a positive note there will now be more accountability/better recording of the Regional Waste Authority finances with the county supervising that operation. A complete report can be found on the County’s website under “Administration/Finances”.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

CLEARWATER COUNTY COUNCI MEETING HIGHLIGHTS Tuesday, March 27, 2018

By Marianne Cole

1. Delegations
· Rocky Flipz Gymnastics and Preschool Gennifer Mehlhaff and Nicholas Frank came to present information on a vision they have for a joint not-for-profit organization effort to build a community multipurpose facility. This building could “include a splash park and low-grade entry pool, field houses, gymnastics studio, indoor walking track and fitness center, meeting space, central hub, and events center. Potentially it could be built south of Rocky along the “Cut Across” Road.

· Caroline Community Historical Society Laura Kirbyson, President, and Jim Pearson, Vice President, came to present info on their efforts/plans to move the Cheddarville All Hallows Church from its current location along Hwy. 22/Dovercourt area to the Caroline Museum. Plans are to do the move this summer. They explained the costs along with their fund raising activities.

· Compassionate Care Hospice Society Jillian Lawton outlined the Society’s efforts, progress, funding, and current plans for the Hospice suite that will be set up in the Clearwater Center. Discussion took place on their fund raising efforts including potential money from Clearwater Regional FCSS (Family and Community Support Services).


2. Leslieville Elks’ Hall Tax Exemption
Council gave 3 readings to a Bylaw which would give the Leslieville Elks a tax exemption and reimbursement for property taxes paid in 2017. Consideration may be given for the 2018 taxes after those notices are sent out.


3. Public Hearing re Bylaw1040/18 on Cannabis Production Facilities
About 30 people attended the public hearing for this bylaw that would restrict medical marijuana/cannabis production facilities in Clearwater County to an Industrial Park. There were 5 people who spoke in favor of the bylaw, suggesting that this is not an agricultural venture but rather a business requiring greater security. It was also noted that other municipalities also restrict these operations to business parks. 7 people spoke in opposition to the bylaw citing their desire to grow for personal medical reasons and their own freedom of rights. One letter in favor of the bylaw and three in opposition were also read. Several of these people compared cannabis to hemp, a confused inaccurate comparison. Also this bylaw does not mention personal, medical use. Instead this bylaw states, “CANNABIS PRODUCTION FACILITY means the use of land, or buildings for the cultivation, processing, testing, destruction, packaging and shipping of cannabis as permitted and licensed by the Federal Government of Canada.” It goes on to state, “Cannabis does not include industrial hemp as defined under the Industrial Hemp Regulations (Canada) as amended from time to time.”

Following the hearing Council passed second and third reading of the bylaw.


4. Public Engagement Strategy
Council reviewed the information presented by Administration on the various ways council could proceed with gathering/incorporating public opinion on improving broadband services in Clearwater County. In their discussion the suggestion was made that they meet with three different groups: general public, ISP’s (Internet Service Providers), and business people. Information on each group’s wishes, needs, and concerns would be gathered and from that a definite plan of action, along with appropriate timeline, would be drafted. Administration was tasked with drafting more specific guidelines and report back to council.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Medicinal Marijuana Production---“The Rest of the Story”

By Marianne Cole

This article is being written in response to the one you may or may not have seen on the front page of last week’s Mountaineer.For those of you who have not seen it, the article dealt with a Clearwater County landowner’s opposition to the county’s proposed Land Use Bylaw pertaining to the production of medicinal marijuana.

The landowner, Craig McMorran, is protesting the fact that the potential by-law would restrict the production of medical marijuana to an industrial park. Earlier, Mr. McMorran had been quite vocal in his opposition, posting quite negative comments on Facebook and his site, Clearwaterfarming.com.
In his opposition, Mr. McMorran made the comment that Clearwater County does not put restrictions on the growing of other agricultural crops so why medicinal marijuana? In the Mountaineer article he is quoted as saying, “You plant the seed in the dirt. It’s the traditional agricultural model.” With those comments it became quite evident that Mr. McMorran is either grasping at straws or does not understand true agriculture.

Here are some points for “the rest/other side of the story”:

1. Medicinal marijuana is not your normal agricultural crop. Other ag. crops do not require special security clearance as does medicinal marijuana. According to Health Canada, all applicants, officers, directors, and persons in charge of a medicinal marijuana production operation must hold a valid security clearance involving a screening process through the RCMP. They must also notify the local fire department of their intentions re their proposed facility. Other requirements are to provide a detailed description of the methods used to record transactions involving the sale of their product and be subject to compliance and enforcement measures from Health Canada.
Clearly these restrictions (not required for “normal” ag. crops) indicate a distinct set of concerns by Health and Safety Canada.

2. Of eight other Alberta municipal jurisdictions researched, 5 restrict medicinal marijuana production to Industrial districts, 2 restrict it to Direct Control districts (meaning the allowing/permitting is controlled by council rather than the planning department) and 1 allows it as a discretionary use on agricultural land.
Again, others not only recognize the difference between marijuana and other crops, but also see the need for stricter control.

3. Some jurisdictions have further stipulated the need for secure fencing (6 foot chain link) and adequate security equipment (alarms and cameras).

4. Further evidence that medicinal marijuana is not a “normal” agricultural crop is the fact that in production facilities workers are seen wearing white “haz-mat” suits, gloves, and caps.
Certainly to liken medicinal marijuana to other agricultural cops is like comparing a Holstein to a Hereford. Yes, they are both bovines but distinctly different in use, care, production, and marketing. Such is the case with medicinal marijuana and barley, oats, wheat, etc.

In conclusion may I suggest and ask you to consider:

1. You are free to develop your own opinions on this matter.

2. Consider the pros and cons of having a medicinal marijuana facility next to you or out in the rural area of Clearwater County (considering safety, odor, and need for increased policing/monitoring,etc.).

3. Consider the benefits/detriments of losing more valuable farm land whose productive capabilities can likely benefit a significantly greater number of people either through crop production or grazing.

4. If you have time, research the new bylaw on the county’s website: Clearwatercounty.ca, then click on “Council Minutes and Agendas” in bottom left hand corner, then go to “Agendas, 27 Mar. 2018” and scroll down to page 62.

5. Consider attending the public hearing on this bylaw at 11:30AM, tomorrow, March 27 in County Council Chambers.

6. Consider calling your councillor or e-mailing them with your opinion/concerns. (Their contacts are on the website or you can call me (Marianne) at (403)729-2493 for their contact.

This council is striving to be proactive on this matter and the Planning Department has done extensive work in researching and preparing this bylaw. They are not outlawing the production of medicinal marijuana; they are merely establishing reasonable guidelines in the best interests for the residents of Clearwater County. Any support would be appreciated.


I apologize for the late sending of this info but things have been rather busy here and I wanted to have some research to go with the info. Better late than never. Have great day.
Marianne

Friday, March 2, 2018

CLEARWATER COUNTY COUNCIL MEETING HIGHLIGHTS, February 27, 2018


By Marianne Cole


1. Eckville Arena Request
A letter had been received from the Eckville Arena Operating Association requesting financial assistance with repairing the roof on the major mechanical room of their arena. Included with the letter was a list of figures showing substantial usage of that arena by Clearwater County residents, both youth and adult. Much discussion took place, focussing largely on the implications of funding requests from neighbouring municipalities. In the end the request was denied.

2. Council Compensation Committee Appointments
Members-at-large and past councillor representatives to sit on a remuneration committee were selected. They will have a four month term with a mandate to review councillor and board member compensation for the next three years. Members-at-large include Darryl Park, Lynn Webster, and Dickson Wood while past council reps are Ken Qually and Dick Wymenga.

3. Leslieville/Condor Fire Halls
Council has set April 3rd and 4th, with an alternate of the 5th, for town hall meetings in each community to discuss the future of their fire halls. Each evening will start at 6:30PM with a tour of the facility followed by a meeting at 7:00PM. The dates will be confirmed following confirmation of hall availability and then this will be publicized in the local paper and on the county’s website.

4. Clearwater County Broadband Policy 
Council approved a Broadband Policy which outlines the county’s goals and action in providing better broadband/internet service to our area. Key points of the policy state that the county “will develop an Open Access Network of broadband infrastructure to provide internet accessibility to the majority of county residents and businesses”. The policy further states that “Clearwater County will pursue grants to complete the OAN and leverage partnership opportunities” and the county “will not provide end-user internet services, rather invest in the OAN in an effort to encourage competition from ISP’s” (Internet Service Providers).

5. Village of Caroline Sr. Independent Living Initiative
Mayor John Rimmer of Caroline attended the meeting to outline the need for, and possible action on, developing increased senior housing for the southern portion of the county. After excellent discussion Council directed Administration to draft a letter of support for this initiative.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

IN THE NEWS




1. Broadband Policy Framework
Council continues to discuss the most efficient, fiscally responsible way to help improve broadband service in the county. At its meeting on January 23 council directed Administration to prepare a “Terms of Reference” policy giving council more specific direction for the development of enhanced broadband coverage. This project will involve public engagement through education articles in local newspapers and on the county’s website as well as community hall meetings. Watch for further info and be ready to assist the councillors with your opinion.

2. CPO Program
 Currently we are down to 4 Community Police Officers (from 5) and there was discussion at the last council meeting on whether to go back to 5 or keep as 4. CPO’s are limited to bylaw enforcement with no power on criminal matters, but it was noted that, potentially, with a night shift, it might be beneficial to have them “out there” as extra eyes. Currently the summer shifts end at 10:00PM and the winter shifts end at 8:00PM. In the end a motion to hire a 5th CPO was defeated but a motion to continue discussion on ways to improve the program for the benefit of residents was passed.

3. Leslieville/Condor Fire Halls
 The discussion continues on this topic. At Tuesday’s council meeting the county’s fire chief noted that the volunteer fire fighting members wanted to maintain the two stations. Discussion took place on the benefits of having two facilities with potentially similar designs but different “footprints”, noting that they did not have to be identical. Council made it clear that they will engage the public with community meetings before decisions are made and there is no time line for proceeding.

4. Council/Board/Committee Remuneration Policy
 Council is currently working on establishing a policy that would see the organization of a committee to work on setting future remuneration for councillors and members of county boards or committees. It has been suggested that a Council Compensation Committee be established to review this matter. It would be made up of no more than 5 public members who would meet a maximum of 3 times while working with administration to research the necessary information. Ads would be posted on the county’s website asking for interested parties to apply. A final draft of this policy will be prepared by administration and brought back to council for approval.




“Friends are as companions on a journey aiding each other on the road to a happier life.” Pythagoras
“Side by side or miles apart, truest friends are always close at heart.” Anonymous


Coming Events:
Thursday, February 8, 2018, 7:30 PM, Arbutus Community Hall, Regular Meeting with Guest Speaker
Thursday, March 8, 2018, 7:30 PM, Arbutus Community Hall, Regular Meeting

Friday, January 26, 2018

CLEARWATER COUNTY TAXPAYERS’ ASSOCIATION
Regular Monthly Meeting, Thursday, February 8, 2018
7:30PM, Arbutus Community Hall

Guest speaker: Karl Zajes, Surface Rights Consultant
And President of the Warburg/Pembina Surface Rights Group
Speaking on: Oil/Gas Industry Leases, Rental reviews, and Orphan wells 

Everyone welcome. Refreshments served

CLEARWATER COUNTY COUNCIL MEETING HIGHLIGHTS, JANUARY 23, 2018

By Marianne Cole

It continues to be a “breath of fresh air” to attend county council meetings. There is very respectful, open discussion on all agenda topics with a visible effort to make fiscally responsible decisions along with a desire to promote public engagement. Highlights from the January 23rd meeting are:

1. Recommendations from the January 15th Agenda & Priorities Meeting
Broadband Policy Framework: Council directed Administration to prepare a Terms of Reference for council with a direction for the development of enhanced broadband coverage for the county. The project will involve public engagement through education articles in local newspapers and on the county’s website as well as community hall meetings.

CPO Program: Significant discussion took place on the Community Police Officer program and its focus/limitations. Suggestions were made that while the CPO’s are limited to bylaw enforcement rather than criminal matters, it might be beneficial to have them “out there” as extra eyes. Discussion took place on possibly arranging for more night shifts. In the end a motion to hire a 5th CPO was defeated but a motion to continue discussion on ways to improve the program was passed.

Leslieville/Condor Fire Halls: The county’s fire chief reported that the members want to maintain two stations. Discussion took place on the benefits of having two stations with potentially similar designs but different footprints as the facilities do not need to be identical. Council made it clear that they will engage the public before decisions are made and there is no time line of action.

2. Presentation by Sgt. Jason Penner, Acting Detachment Commander, RCMP
Sgt. Penner noted some staff changes with Staff Sgt. Groves working on a Central Alberta Crime Protection committee/initiative, one corporal assisting in Rimbey, and one corporal retiring.

The local detachment continues to work on their goals to meet with/interact with the communities they serve while focussing on property protection and identifying/monitoring criminals.
To that end they are looking at crime hotspots and a crime analyst/investigator will hopefully be on staff by May.

Another public engagement effort is the recently started “Coffee with a Cop” opportunity that will be held at McDonald’s from 10-11AM once a month. Information will be coming out shortly on the dates.

3. Presentation by Cole Thomson, Community Area Lead, TransCanada NOVA Transmission Ltd.
Mr. Thomson outlined their operation, focussing on the proposed new Natural Gas Transmision Line for the west side of the province. This will involve two large scale projects in Clearwater County---one near Nordegg and the other near Caroline. This was very positive news as it will not only increase the tax revenue for the county but will provide extensive work opportunities along with a large economic benefit for hotels, restaurants, and other businesses in our area. Mr. Thomson will also be making a presentation to the West Central Stakeholders Association meeting at Leslieville Community Hall at 3:30PM on February 1, 2018.

4. Presentation by Jessica Reilly, Senior Fisheries Biologist, Alberta Environment and Parks
Ms. Reilly outlined here research on the various trout numbers in Clearwater County waterways and the causes for the decline in some populations. They will be working with the county’s Public Works Department to help fix some of the problems where culverts/road crossings are interfering with the trout movements.

5. Council Board &Committee Remuneration Policy
Earlier in the fall the 2018 remuneration had been established so the discussion focussed mainly on the establishment of a committee to review compensation in subsequent years. In the end it was decided that a Council Compensation Committee be established. It would be made up of no more than 5 public members who would meet a maximum of 3 times while working with administration to research the necessary information. Ads would be posted on the county’s website asking for interested parties to apply. A final draft of this policy will be prepared by administration and brought back to council for approval.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

HIGHLIGHTS, CLEARWATER COUNTY COUNCIL MEETING, January 9, 2018


By Marianne Cole

1. Presentation by Kelly and Andrea Spongberg
 The Spongbergs made a presentation outlining the paving improvements they had made on the Airport Road (RR7-0) to make it ban free. They reviewed the various communiques between them and the county dating as far back as 2013. The County’s Endeavor to Assist Policy was thought to initially provide a shared cost plan, but that policy was revised in 2015, excluding the county from shared cost requirements stated in the policy.
In the end council passes two motions: 1. That the Endeavor to Assist Policy be reviewed; and 2. That the Spngberg’s request for cost sharing on the road improvements be tabled until after the review is completed.

2. Presentation re. Hosting the 2019 Alberta Masters Games
 Roger Smolnicky, Recreation Director with the town of Rocky made a presentation regarding the joint town/county bid to host the 2019 Alberta Masters Games. He outlined the various sports/competitions that would be held for ages 30/35 and up, as well as ages 50 and up. He explained how the area’s facilities would be used to host these activities along with outlining the necessary funding. In that regard he mentioned the potential Community Facilities Improvement Program (CFIP) grants that could be applied for and that these would leave long-lasting improvements to the area’s community.
In the end council passes a motion to provide $75,000 of funding that will hopefully be matched by the town.

3. Presentation by Stephen Bull, Assistant Deputy Minister, Service Alberta
 Mr. Bull made an excellent presentation on issues related to improved broadband service in Alberta. Highlights were:
SuperNet up-date--- The province’s current contract with Axia (current operator of the SuperNet) expires in June 2018. Requests for Proposals (RFP’s) for a new contract were put out in the fall.
The province is looking for a partner that would to a quality job of providing service province wide, with the #1 priority of continuing service for current users (government offices, hospitals, schools).
Two proposals were received---from Bell and Axia.
The government is currently scoring/evaluating the proposals to ensure the proposed plans are feasible, with a goal to have a contract ready by February/March. Mr. Bull also discussed the concern for providing necessary connectivity for First Responders, noting problems with coverage around Caroline. Councillor Laird noted problems west and north of Rocky as well.
Mr. Bull brought forward the work being done on a Provincial Broadband Strategy, with the need to gather input from industry groups as well as municipalities. He posed a number of questions that will be addressed, focussing mainly on funding and operations options. Council suggested that they be given a month to 6 weeks to respond when the survey is sent to them.

4. The County’s own Broadband Policy Framework
 A draft of the possible policy framework was presented but will be discussed at greater length at Council’s Agenda and Priorities meeting on Monday.

Monday, January 8, 2018

IN THE NEWS


1. Fire Destroys Leslieville Elks’ Hall 
 A devastating fire on December 29 destroyed the Leslieville Elks’ Hall. Arson is suspected and one person was taken into custody the same evening. Formal charges have not yet been laid, pending completion of the investigation.
This is a serious loss to the community. Aside from being the home for the very community minded, charity supporting Elks’ Lodge, it was the meeting place for various groups, among them our Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association.
Prior to being the Elks’ Hall, it was a rural school and holds many memories for those who attended it. Along with the loss of the physical structure there was a significant amount of memorabilia as well as elegant elk mounts, all of which are irreplaceable.
As a result of the fire the CCTA will now be holding their regular monthly meetings at the Arbutus Community Hall. It is located 1 mile south of Hwy. 11 on the Arbutus Road (RR 6-3). You will see the hall on your right but you will need to just turn right and go west briefly to get to the approach into the hall.


2. Significant Changes in County Administration 
 As mentioned in our December Beacon, Ron Leaf, past Chief Administrative Officer, resigned and the CAO position has been taken over for the interim by Rick Emmons. Other changes are as follows:
Former Director of Corporate Services, Rodney Boyko, has been replaced by Murray Hagan who held that position in 2010. Mr. Boyko has been hired on as the Chief Financial Officer of the Rocky REA.
Marshal Morton, former Director of Public Works has been replaced by current county employees. Erik Hansen will now supervise the infrastructure matters and Kurt Magnus will oversee the operations area of public works.
The position of Director of Community Protective Services (held by Ted Hickey) has been eliminated. With the restructuring, Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Services will be supervised by the CAO, Rick Emmons, while Community Police Officers will be supervised by the Infrastructure Department of Public Works.
In all, the equivalent of five full time positions have been eliminated, evidence of council’s new vision of providing more efficiently managed services.


3. Broadband Services
The provision of improved broadband services will be a very significant issue in the coming year. A year ago the federal government declared this an essential service, but how it is to
be implemented and at what cost remains to be seen. Clearwater County Council is dedicated to working on this matter and is looking for public input. We encourage everyone to do as much research as possible, attend meetings on this subject, and pass your views on to your councillor.


4. Road Paving 
This was an area of major concern expressed by residents during the fall election. According to Reeve John Vandermeer in a December 27, 2017 county news release, “residents also indicated additional asphalt projects should be a priority for this Counci, and as such, we’ve allocated funding to progress with paving a few more road segments in 2018 and 2019.”


ROSES
A very huge bouquet of roses goes out to all our emergency responders. Recent incidents in Leslieville(the Elks’ Hall fire) and Rocky (the take down by the RCMP of suspects involved in armed robberies) are clear examples how these dedicated individuals continually exert unfailing efforts and put their lives at risk for our benefit/protection. Their dedication continues in all manner of circumstances (including -30 degree temperatures) when we are basking in the comforts of warmth and safety of our own homes. Huge kudos to these very special service providers.


RANT 
 With the impending decisions on broadband service provisions, it is absolutely crucial for each one of us to do what we can to gather information and make our voices heard. In so doing, it is vital to consider that this is not a matter affecting just the immediate future but one that has a long term impact on the well-being of our economy and the residents of Clearwater County. There are many unanswered questions about what is necessary, what is the most efficient method of implementation, and who should ultimately be financially responsible. It behoves each one of us to do our due diligence in assisting council with our input on this “pillar for the future”.


Coming Events
1. Thursday, January 11, 2018, 7:30PM, ARBUTUS COMMUNITY HALL, Regular monthly meeting. Reeve John Vandermeer, guest speaker.
2. Thursday, February 8, 7:30PM, Regular monthly meeting, Arbutus Community Hall