Bighorn not in Calgary region 0
Front page, Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The Calgary Regional Partnership is not going to include the MD of Bighorn.
The draft regional plan that the partnership will vote on June 19 provides a vision and guidance for local municipalities as decision makers and will become the Calgary Metropolitan Plan without one of the communities in the Bow Valley.
Dene Cooper, the reeve of the MD of Bighorn, said that the MD had been very active in participating with the Calgary Regional Partnership, and the MD "certainly didn't pull out because we thought it was a bad plan."
He said emphatically that the Calgary Regional Partnership was not off track.
Cooper said that the MD of Bighorn was pulling out instead due to issues surrounding its "connectivity" with the Calgary region.
"The MD withdrawing from the Calgary Regional Partnership is not a statement of the MD being unhappy with what this is," Cooper said. "It represents a tremendous benefit and opportunity for the municipalities that participate in it."
The connectivity issue for the MD of Bighorn arises, Cooper said, especially because the municipal district is never going to see a rail line or a sewer line or a water line through the lands of the Stoney-Nakoda nation up to the M.D. of Bighorn.
The Calgary Regional Partnership draft plan falls under the umbrella of the Alberta land-use framework. First Nations' lands do not.
The provincial plan is broken into seven different regions, one of which encompasses the South Saskatchewan River Basin and is thus called the South Saskatchewan Region, that region, which includes Calgary requires a sub-regional plan as does the North Saskatchewan Region, which includes the Capital region, or Edmonton.
The plan will include regional strategic priorities and targets for member municipalities to achieve, but will not change the decision-making abilities of its members.
Calgary has been called one of the worst offenders in North America for urban sprawl.
Calgary exerts its influence on its surroundings, including influencing the communities in the Bow Valley, but a draft regional plan circulated in open houses across the region this month is looking to refocus that influence.
The Calgary Regional Partnership is circulating a draft regional plan through 17 open houses in the Calgary region from March 3 to April 2.
The Banff and Canmore open houses were held in Canmore's Civic Centre on Wednesday, March 4, last week.
The Calgary region can expect 800,000 new jobs and 1.6 million people within the next 60 to 70 years. The draft regional plan put forward by the Calgary Regional Partnership is based on a cooperative approach to preserve the landscape in the region by directing the future settlement pattern and the regional support services and infrastructure.
The draft plan accompanies the provincial government's recently released land-use framework, but work in this region has been ongoing since January 2006, before the Alberta land-use framework got underway, said Colleen Shepherd, manager of regional land use for the Calgary Regional Partnership.
Like many plans these days, planners have used the environment as a starting point in their process. The draft plan focuses settlement away from naturally sensitive areas, she said. Maps on display at the Canmore Civic Centre Wednesday showed large swaths of green in and around the Bow Valley.
Rick Butler, executive director of the Calgary Regional Partnership said that the proposed plan would protect natural systems and guide where development should be and where it shouldn't be.
"The status quo plan that we looked at - if we were to basically implement all the plans that were in place in various regions and municipalities in terms of where we would grow and how - it would have meant 125,000 new hectares of development across the region to accommodate the 1.6 million new residents," Butler said.
The regional partnership plan, a more efficient use of space, Butler said, would instead only require 45,000 hectares - a 64 per cent reduction - in developed land to accommodate the region's predicted growth.
The draft plan calls for up to 25 per cent increased density to accommodate new people in developed areas surrounding Calgary compared with up to 50 per cent increases in density within Calgary, Shepherd said.
The map for the increased density did not indicate increased density in the Bow Valley though.
Maps also showed that there is no major transit route planned out here in the next 70 years, transit in the draft plan is intended to link people across the region to encourage "clustered" development, but neither a bus line nor a rail link proposed to connect the Bow Valley to Calgary.
"Canmore doesn't require the larger regional transportation either," Shepherd said in response to a question over the continued partnership between Bow Valley municipalities and the Calgary Regional Partnership. "They have their own solutions," she said, referring to a possible partnership between Canmore, Banff and ID 9.
The MD is geographically different, has different transportation needs and has a different economic reality than Canmore and Banff.
There are economic benefits from the tourist industry in Canmore and Banff that are not as prominent in the MD of Bighorn.
Further, Reeve Cooper said that the MD of Bighorn supplies water to areas throughout the region: as well as those in the Calgary Regional Partnership.
He said: "We are afraid to be particularly aligned as a water provider with any of our end users because we thought that was something so critical, it's like electricity - does it matter where the lights go out? Or does it matter that the lights went out somewhere in the world? We need to be aligned properly so that we can play our role and be our best selves to our neighbours always."
There is enough water to service the expected 1.6 million new people in the region in the future, Shepherd said. But water conservation is going to be critical.
Because Canmore and Banff are outside of the core of the proposed municipal development, with "ecological infrastructure" rather than transit or water services bordering the Bow Valley towns, the naturally sensitive areas were highlighted during the presentation.
At the meeting, Cooper said the MD of Bighorn is still a big patch of green, it's just not on the maps.
The ecological infrastructure areas on display Wednesday were questioned during the open house.
But to identify these areas as ecologically sensitive within a regional plan is an important step, Shepherd said, agreeing that for the time the naturally sensitive areas in the plan lack "specificity."
"We're saying we may want to see protection of these particular areas," she said. Agricultural lands were an example of areas that have proven difficult to identify as naturally sensitive, posing challenges, Shepherd said.
"There are some areas that need to be tightened up," Shepherd said. "I believe strongly that through the provincial land-use framework we will be able to do that."
The Calgary Regional Partnership's draft plan is one of the first plans to come forward out of the Alberta land-use framework and that is in part because of the extensive work done in the area already, such as identifying naturally sensitive area: the information obtained there would then be "filtered up" Shepherd said.