Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Subdivision controversy dominates Clearwater County Open House

Division 1 Councillor Jim Duncan had the difficult task of hosting the open house in the Hardindell Hall

Story and Photos by Helge Nome

As part of its outreach to the community, the Clearwater County Council hosted an open house with beef-on-a-bun at the Hardindell Hall, south-west of Rocky Mountain House, on April 11. Council members and staff made themselves available to respond to community interest in county affairs. There was a good turnout of residents and some heated discussion following the meal, mainly centered around the local Meadow Ponds 54 lot subdivision proposal.

The meeting was hosted by the area's elected councillor, Jim Duncan, who made a presentation and responded to written questions from the floor. Duncan expressed the need to diversify the county economy to move away from the current 85% of taxation revenue coming from the oil and gas industry. Balanced growth and retention of youth are priorities for the present council. A sewage lagoon and a hospital are currently needed in the area, according to Duncan.

Following a break, Duncan responded to questions from the floor and noted the problem with the use of off-road vehicles in the west country and emphasized the need for cooperation between the RCMP, Sustainable Resource Development and County Peace Officers in minimizing damage to the environment.

However, most of the questions were focussed on the controversial Meadow Ponds subdivision proposal. Former area County Councillor Ken Qually and area resident Rob Dewling were particularly vocal in their opposition to the recent County Council decision to re-designate the 154 odd acres involved from "agricultural" to "country residential". Both individuals stood up and argued that the county had ignored provisions of its own municipal development plan and land use bylaw in its 4-3 decision in favor of re-designation. This was denied by County Manager Ron Leaf and Reeve Pat Alexander.

A controversial aspect of this subdivision proposal is an offer by the developer to "gift" three areas of the farm quarter to be subdivided back to the County. This consists of land suitable for agriculture. If these areas were included in the development proposal, the whole quarter section of land should not even have been considered for subdivision, according to the Municipal Development Plan which states that:" the land on which the residential subdivision is proposed has a Farmland Assessment Rating of 34% or less, except that up to 15% of the land to be subdivided for residential purposes may have a higher rating.

The quarter in question has more than twice the allowable percentage of quality land.
For some photos of the protagonists in action, go to Second Page

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