Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Letter to Council

Marianne Cole, President Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association RR #1 Rocky Mtn. House, AB T4T 2A1

Mr. Daryl Lougheed, Reeve Clearwater County Box 550 Rocky Mtn. House, AB T4T 1A4 December 13, 2022

Dear Reeve Lougheed and County Councillors:

I am writing this letter on behalf of the Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association as a supplement to my earlier letter of November 15, 2022. We feel it is very important that the points noted here be addressed at the December 20, 2022 County Council meeting as you consider First Reading of the Municipal Development Plan draft.

1. Facts to Consider

· 78% of the people who responded to the county’s survey were in favor of only 1 subdivision out of a quarter.

· 64% were opposed to two parcels out.

· The majority of comments expressed during meetings opposed extra subdivisions, with a focus on potential negative impacts on agricultural operations as well as community services.

· Serious concerns were expressed over the potential loss of food producing land.

· Our current MDP allows only 1 subdivision per quarter with 5 acres maximum size.

· The proposed MDP draft would allow 2 subdivisions with a total of 15 acres out. That is three times the current allowable land to be removed from a quarter.

· A “recommendation” from administration (as per the What We Heard Report) suggests a maximum of 25 subdivisions be allowed per year. Apparently Council is proposing only 20 be allowed.

· If the number and size (as per the current MDP) were to be maintained, a total of only 100 acres (5 x 20) could be removed from potentially farmable land per year.

· BUT, if the proposed numbers are used (15 acres x 20 subdivisions) 300 acres could be removed each year. Multiply that times the 4 years this plan could be in effect and 1200 acres of productive land could be lost.

2. Responsibility to Constituents

According to the Municipal Government Act, Section 153, “Councillors have the following duties: (a) to consider the welfare and interests of the municipality as a whole..” This would suggest that you consider the majority of opinion. It is important to note:

· During the review process Council supported various opportunities to gather public opinion, namely in-person town hall meetings, virtual on-line meetings, and a written survey.

· Throughout all of these activities the most common opinion expressed was opposition to an increase in number of subdivisions (along with the allowable size) out of a quarter.

· Rationale supporting that opposition focussed on:

Ø Negative impact on agricultural operations, the primary activity in our county

Ø The loss of valuable food producing land

Ø Concern with negative impact on community services such as road maintenance, school bus safety, and emergency services.

· All of the public engagement activities involved significant costs for hall rentals, consultant wages, staff time, advertising and miscellaneous expenses.

· As these expenses were funded by taxpayer dollars, it is crucial that their voices be heard. If you ignore the majority of public opinion expressed through the above activities, you have not only wasted money, but devalued the input of the very people who placed their confidence in you during the past election.

3. Questionable Responses

Throughout this whole review process we have heard comments and responses from not only the public but also administration and Council. Some of these have raised the following questions/concerns:

· There is a desire to have more acreages allowed for family members/estate planning. While this may be considered a cooperative action, it was not a majority issue. Furthermore, it is not the County’s duty to be involved with estate planning. That is a personal responsibility to be addressed throughout life.

· We have heard comments from Council that the CCTA is only a small group and does not represent the majority. First of all we generally sell 25-30 memberships per year. There are usually 15-20 people attending every meeting and there are currently 59 on our email list. As such these numbers are greater than any county committee involved in making decisions for the county. Furthermore, our members come from all areas of the county. They are involved in those areas and hear very valuable comments from their neighbors. Consequently, the comments that we make are representative of a large number of county residents.

· We have also heard comments negating the value of farmland in our county. While we may not have a large amount of profitable grain producing land we are well known for our forage production and very valuable grazing opportunities. People from all over central Alberta bring their cattle out here for summer pasture.

· While there seems to be an increasing concern elsewhere with the loss of food producing land, this does not seem to be a matter of consideration by our administration or potentially Council as well. Food is one of the necessities of life and every effort should be taken to ensure

adequate future supply. It would be great to have our county value this need as much as neighboring jurisdictions along with those promoting RAMP (the Regional Agricultural Management Plan) in the Edmonton area.

· We have also heard the financial argument used to promote the need for increased taxes gathered from acreages. While the financial outlook in this county did take a brief downturn, there has been a positive upsurge in the oil industry that will have positive impacts into the future. In addition, as of October 31, 2022 revenues for 2022 were $2,237,397 over budget. I also remind you of the very large amount of taxpayer dollars that are sitting in restricted reserves.

· Finally, we have repeatedly heard the comment from administration that “we get many inquiries for more acreages and bigger sizes.” This is a moot point as they are not going to hear opposing wishes on a daily basis. People are not going to walk into the county office to merely express an opinion about limiting acreage numbers or sizes. The only ones that would come in would be the ones that want something and they are certainly not in the majority.

4. Potential Action

At this December 20, 2022 County Council meeting you are provided with the opportunity for 3 possible actions:

· You may pass the current draft as presented. This would demonstrate publicly a distinct lack of value placed on the majority of opinions gathered during the process you promoted to guide you.

ü You may pass the current draft with amendments. We strongly suggest that you amend the sections dealing with subdivisions out of a quarter, reducing the number to 1 and the size to 5. Your survey results indicated 78% support for such amendments.

· You may defeat the motion to pass this current MDP draft completely but this would not be a positive move as it could result in significant delay and additional cost.

In conclusion we sincerely ask that Council pass amendments to the current Municipal Development Plan draft as noted above. These changes could be accomplished effectively, efficiently, and responsibly prior to 2nd Reading.

As you make your decision we trust that your dedication to the majority of your electorate will ultimately override personal opinions or desires, but reflect the true voice of the people.

Yours truly,

Marianne Cole

Cc: Deputy Reeve Mehlhaff, Councillors Graham, Northcott, Ratcliffe, Cermak, and Swanson, CAO Rick Emmons, and Executive Assistant Tracy Lynn Haight.

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