Suzanne Oel Councillor
Black Diamond/Turner Valley/Longview Local Political News Priddis/Millarville/Red Deer Lake

Councillor Update – Suzanne Oel – MD Foothills – Mar 2021

Coal Mining: Foothills County Council discussed concerns being raised by residents and decided to write a letter to the Premier and Ministers. We also reached out to Highwood MLA Sigurdson and Foothills MP Barlow to invite them to our February 3 Council Meeting to help us gain further understanding about this complex topic.

In our letter, we wrote: “In order to protect the area west of the County and all sensitive areas that may be subject to mining, the absence of clear policy and legislation for the area raises concerns with Foothills residents regarding the water quality and allocation in the headwaters, as well as the loss of our mountain vistas, grasslands and wildlife habitats. We urgently request that your Government undertake a consultative process with Albertans towards clearly outlining, in policy and legislation, protection for K-Country, our watersheds and other areas that affect the lives and enjoyment of everyday Albertans.”

We are pleased that the Province has now reinstated the 1976 Coal Policy and that citizens will be invited to participate in developing new policy. We will watch closely to see where this all goes, since we are not sure how the headwaters will be protected and what the intent is towards mining the Eastern Slopes.

Snow Removal update from Public Works: Foothills County has a priority system in place, with timeframes, for the snow and ice control Program to maintain roughly 2,200 kilometers, 4,400 lane-kilometers, of road. To handle this vast road network, the County deploys 10 truck/sander units and 10 graders. The trucks plow only hard-surfaced roads (pavement/chip seal/MRO dust control), whereas the graders can plow almost all County roads.

We prioritize our roads based on vehicles per day, speed limit, plus vertical and horizontal alignment. Roads with higher traffic volumes and speed limits are tended to first because they have a greater risk of an incident occurring. All roads are ranked “One to Four”, with “One” being the highest priority. Once a storm ends, and depending on the snow amount and type (wet/heavy), the County is committed to having the entire road network in safe driving winter conditions between 72 and 96 hours. In an average snowfall (6 inches or less), we can usually have a pass in and out on every road within 48 hours, and completely plowed and in safe driving winter condition within 72 hrs.

Graders also move snow further into the ditches along roadways. This practice helps create more snow storage capacity for future snow events, prevents snow drifting and helps with drainage when the snow melt happens in the spring.

Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB) Draft Growth Management Plan presentation to Council: On February 10, we received a presentation from the planning consultants on the project to date. This provided a chance for our Council and Admin to express our deep concerns to the CMRB Chair, Admin, consultants, our MP John Barlow and our three Provincial reps: Highwood MLA Sigurdson, Livingstone-Macleod MLA Reid and Banff-Kananaskis MLA Rosin. Even though the consultants have stated on numerous occasions that our region is not in crisis, this mandated plan as currently drafted, limits development forms to red-tape ridden exercises that don’t work for the County, that duplicate what we already have in place (cost-sharing agreements, Intermunicipal Development Plans, etc.) and effectively create problems where there weren’t any = thereby creating uncertainty and lost opportunity.

We would like to see the growth plan amended to allow Foothills to create residential and employment areas, the same as the urban municipalities are allowed to do under this plan, where all of these would be subjected to the Regional Evaluation Framework (a process that vets the plans through the regional planning checklist). We want to develop where it makes sense, for example: a residential area near the waterline we’re planning with the Town of Okotoks and an employment area near Highway 2 in partnership with the Town of High River that we’ve been planning for years.

We wrapped up this session by passing a motion that expresses our dissatisfaction with this draft plan, requests that the CMRB Board and members provide all costs to date, and requests that the Province evaluate this plan in terms of Red Tape Reduction and Economic Strategies. We are asking for a growth plan that is fair, transparent and keeps authority within elected government.

This plan should not be the overlord of all our municipalities, but should create a custom fit for our area, guide us as equal partners on how the region should grow and provide opportunity and economic support – a true win-win.

The CMRB Board is asking for a time extension for the growth plan development. I hope we can get it right.

Best Regards, Councillor Suzanne Oel
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