On March 22 Minister of Red Tape Reduction, Grant Hunter, and Cardston-Siksika MLA Joseph Schow met virtually with Cardston County at their regular meeting of council. Council shared concerns about Bill 48 and its impact on subdivision development appeal hearings in the region. For background, the county made a development decision last year to approve an additional 110 sites at Dustin Thompson’s Payne Lake Campground; a decision that was quickly appealed by nearby landowners. A hearing was scheduled to review the appeal by the Chinook Intermunicipal Subdivision Development Appeal Board (CISDAB), however, after the development decision and before the appeal hearing Bill 48 changed who the appeal would be heard by. The development being so close to a provincial body of water now means the provincial board, currently called the Municipal Governance Board, will now hear the appeal.
Speaking on behalf of council, Reeve Bullock shared that “there might be unintended consequences of Bill-48… with direct consequences on our local autonomy.” Reeve Bullock specifically referenced the Municipal Governance Board that would be reviewing the appeal, raising Cardston County’s concern that southern Alberta and rural Alberta interests aren’t well represented by a board composed of 50 plus appointees from across province, as “most of these people being big-city types.” The SDAB that would have heard the appeal is made up of members from Cardston and other rural communities from across the region.
Minister Hunter agreed that “the composition of the board right now is highly in favour of large municipalities”, and shared his hope that “once those board positions come up then we can start having it be more indicative of the different regions”. MLA Schow has sent requests for input on board appointments when they arise, and offered to contact Cardston County for input the next time appointments are needed. While the honourable Grant Hunter was instrumental in introducing Bill-48, he explained that the County’s concern was really a matter for the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Ric McIver. Minister Hunter stated that he has shared the County’s specific concerns with Minister McIver and is waiting on a response to see if the Payne Lake Campground development could be grandfathered in because of the timing.
Deputy Reeve Jim Bester shared his concerns on the matter, “it costs quite a bit of money and time, the red tape costs us and the developer… this seems to be caught up in a big bureaucratic expensive thing that could dissuade a lot of people… we don’t need big government here.”
Later in the meeting, Cardston County passed second and third readings of a bylaw to participate in the Regional Emergency Management Partnership with the towns of Magrath and Cardston and the villages of Hill Spring and Glenwood.
The County also approved the first business to apply for the property tax incentive program, Boss Feeds. CAO Murray Millward introduced the company saying “they have met the conditions of the bylaw, and would receive 25% exemption if council approves.” Reeve Bullock shared with his fellow councillors that “a few of us had the opportunity to go view the facility and it looks very sustainable, a great addition to our county.”
During the meeting the county also held two public hearings about Inter-Municipal Development Plans, one with the town of Cardston and another with the town of Magrath. These were fairly well attended with comments and concerns from the public being heard by the council.
Elizabeth Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star