Monday, June 7, 2010

Pen Meets Paper

Opinion by Helge Nome
On Wednesday, June 9, the latest draft of the Clearwater County Municipal Development Plan will be presented to the public for comments at a meeting to be held at the Walking Eagle Motor Inn in Rocky Mountain House at 7pm, for those that would like to attend. This plan has been a long time coming and has been scrutinized at a number of public consultation meetings, where municipal subdivision policies have received most of the attention. Some of the debate has been acrimonious because of the perception that some people have been favored over others in their ability to subdivide property for financial gain.
There is also another aspect to the subdivision phenomenon that stirs some rather strong emotions: The mixing of country and city cultures and values. Traditionally, these cultures have evolved separately over the years since Europeans flooded onto the North American continent. Cities have become progressively cleaner and neater over the years, on average, by way of a process fueled by neighbours trying outdo each other in neatness and tidiness. While this has also been the case for farmsteads, it is not necessarily true for farming operations which are, by nature, both smelly and noisy.
And now, a highly efficient communication system with paved roads and fast fuel efficient vehicles has enabled city folk to move into the country and commute to work or spend weekends at their country properties while planning to retire on same. The same road network has also enabled city folk with all manner of recreational vehicles and questionable attitudes towards land stewardship to easily travel into the backcountry to blow off steam to relieve themselves of city frustrations. Add it all up and you end up with a clash of cultures.
Another ingredient is added to the mix: The Clearwater County policy of allowing the owner of a quarter section (160 acres+,-) to take a 5 acre +,- “first parcel out”, at a current value of about $150,000. The proceeds from the sale of such a parcel becomes an important part of a retirement fund for some rural people. It has the potential of bringing “country” and “city” into closer contact, contributing to a cultural clash.
Rural people are also getting upset about their increasing dependence upon government subsidies, with all their attached bureaucratic rules and conditions.
Add it all up and you have a potent brew, a taste of which may be expected at the public meeting in Rocky.

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