“If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one,” says country music star Dolly Parton.
While such a quote has its metaphorical benefits for an individual’s journey through life, its literal application to municipal roadways is a little more complicated.
During its regular Oct. 27 meeting, Crowsnest Pass council again discussed roadways that potentially could benefit from the next capital infrastructure project so that residents — with their trusty “cup of ambition” — have a safe drive on their way to working 9 to 5.
At a fork in the road
Initially deferred from council’s Oct. 6 meeting, a decision on whether to approve road work as part of a capital infrastructure project was again postponed.
Council first considered repairing the underground utilities and surface of 213th Street in Bellevue and 22nd Avenue in Blairmore. Selecting which road to repair, however, proved difficult.
Coun. Lisa Sygutek voiced concerns that no official consultation with Bellevue businesses had occurred and suggested any work should proceed only after feedback was received. Out of the two choices, she continued, improving infrastructure in Bellevue should take priority as part of municipal beautification efforts.
“My opinion is, [22nd Avenue is] a secondary road. It should not take precedence over a main street in Bellevue,” she said. Coun. Sygutek also mentioned improving the infrastructure would add to the number of visitors to the Old Dairy Ice Cream Shoppe and Bellevue Mine.
“It’s a significant amount of money, and I really feel we should be spending it in Bellevue and making that community as beautiful as Coleman,” she said.
Concerns with simply choosing 213th Street, however, centred on access to the Bellevue Mine. With Covid precautions this past summer, the mine saw its season cut in half. Should construction begin next year, the work would block off the only access road for tourists, casting doubt over the mine making any sort of financial recovery.
Coun. Dave Filipuzzi suggested a middle-of-the-road approach might be best.
“Would we be able to do Blairmore first, and then do what Coun. Sygutek says and do main street Bellevue after?” Coun. Filipuzzi asked. “That will give Bellevue a little bit of time to give us our [their] input.”
The idea, agreed Coun. Dean Ward, made a lot of sense.
“The estimated cost of these two projects is $6.5 million. Over the next four years, we’re showing $7.5 million in funding,” he said. “If we did 22nd Avenue first, that will take the next two years, which will then put Bellevue main street for 2023, which would give two years for us to build up reserves, and two years isn’t that far away.”
Given the current economic situation, however, Coun. Doreen Glavin wasn’t sure council could rely on future money for the project.
“I think Bellevue fits into our municipal development plan, and I don’t trust that we will have a lot of funding even in two years to do [it],” she said. “If we’re going to just start picking and choosing roads in Crowsnest Pass, I’d like to see . . . other roads with assessments that are in worse condition — I’d like to see that before I voted yes for 22nd Avenue.”
After talking the matter over, council directed administration to further investigate alternative road projects and present at a future council meeting once the information is ready.
Council directed administration to draft a letter to the minister of jobs, economy and innovation, Doug Schweitzer, asking him to reverse provincial cuts to the Alberta Southwest Regional Alliance.
The provincial government had recently announced reduced funding to Regional Economic Development Alliances by 50 per cent, as well as decreasing its five-year agreement with such alliances to three years.
REDAs are regional economic development offices that are comprised of local communities and stakeholders. Through co-operation and networking, Alberta’s nine REDAs help generate business development, especially in rural areas.
Through co-operation, the Alberta Southwest Regional Alliance has encouraged development that otherwise would be too large for any one community to tackle on its own.
“I’m on the Alberta Southwest board of directors, and the south region definitely feels the need to keep the funding going,” said Mayor Blair Painter.
“They feel that there is definitely an economic benefit to keeping REDAs working, and they definitely feel there is some real economic benefit to bringing in new industry into the south.”
For Coun. Glavin, supporting such initiatives was a no-brainer. “Like what is our province thinking? This is creating jobs,” she said.
More information on the Alberta Southwest Regional Alliance can be found at www.albertasouthwest.com.
In order to ensure Albertans live in viable communities, Municipal Affairs began reporting a new performance measure to identify municipalities’ risk factors back in 2017. The report includes 13 indicators like outcomes of audits, tax base balance and collection rate, and population change to determine how well a municipality is doing.
Should a community trigger one of the critical indicators (like audit outcomes) or three non-critical indicators, the community is considered “at risk.”
Crowsnest Pass passed the report with flying colours, triggering only the infrastructure age indicator.
Council unanimously passed second and third reading of Bylaw 1058, which amends the Land Use Bylaw to reduce the front-yard setback for the Comprehensive Ski Village land use district.
Amending the bylaw, said Coun. Ward, was a sensible and easy thing to do.
“I feel this is a way for the municipality to encourage development that we already see happening, [with] zero cost to taxpayers,” he said.
A setback is the minimum distance a structure must be built away from a property line. Front-yard setbacks ensure enough space is provided for municipalities to run maintenance equipment for streets and utilities.
The original front-yard setback for the Comprehensive Ski Village was three metres, creating fears that the requirement would make development difficult in the Southmore subdivision due to the mountainous terrain at the back of land parcels. In order to honour the setback, extensive excavation of shale bedrock would need to be completed, greatly hindering the economic viability of developing the area.
The next regular council meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. at the MDM Community Centre. Agendas are available on the municipality’s website at https://bit.ly/CNPagenda.
Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze