Sturgeon County to tweak development plan
Councillor upset special council meeting held with almost no notice
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 14, 2013 06:00 am
A bit of controversy is surrounding Sturgeon County council’s decision to call a special council meeting Aug. 2.
The meeting was called so council could make a motion to withdraw the municipal development plan from the Capital Region Board’s Aug. 8 meeting agenda. Draft minutes from the meeting show it lasted about two minutes, just long enough to pass the motion with four councillors in favour of it, Mayor Don Rigney and Coun. Don McGeachy against it and Coun. David Kluthe absent. The minutes have not yet been approved by council.
Kluthe, who got an e-mail about five minutes before the meeting started, takes issue with the special council meeting being called with such little notice. He also thinks the municipal development plan should have gone forward to the regional board instead of withdrawing it.
“My biggest concern is I wasn’t informed of it as a councillor,” he said. Kluthe hadn’t planned to attend the municipal development plan update with administration that sparked the meeting because he had a family event scheduled that weekend.
At that administrative meeting, council heard the Capital Region Board administration staff were going to be recommending rejecting the Sturgeon County plan.
Chief administrative officer Peter Tarnawsky said he wasn’t there for the meeting, but he understands county staff met with the regional board staff and heard there were about five points that needed clarifying before they could recommend it go forward to the board. Tarnawsky said once the municipal development plan was before the Capital Region Board they couldn’t add any clarifying information, so it was a faster process to withdraw it, address the matters which needed clarifying, and resubmit.
“We’re appreciative of the candour with which the meeting with the Capital Region Board staff progressed,” Tarnawsky said. He’s hopeful the municipal development plan will be passed before the next election.
Clarification was requested on policies proposed for “neighbourhood G,” which is north of Edmonton and St. Albert. Tarnawsky said there were also some questions about the allocation of residential development in other parts of the county.
Doug Lagore, CEO of the Capital Region Board, said the organization uses a third party evaluator to look at municipal development plans so there’s no bias on the part of his staff.
“The position of the third party and our staff was that Sturgeon’s MDP did not meet the growth plan, therefore we recommended that it be turned down,” Lagore said. “There was a number of areas where it was too vague.”
Kluthe and the mayor were both concerned about the lack of notice for the meeting. According to the Municipal Government Act a special council meeting can be held with no notice to the public and less than 24 hours notice to councillors if at least two-thirds of council agree in writing to hold the meeting. Five councillors agreed to hold the meeting with Rigney dissenting and Kluthe absent.
“We’d been called in for an update and after over an hour we were asked to call a snap council meeting to sanitize a decision made behind closed doors. I didn’t support it because I was disappointed, I was disappointed but I must say not surprised that the majority of council and administration proceeded without full council notification or participation,” Rigney said. “There was no urgency. The CRB meeting was still a week away.”
Rigney expressed frustration with the Capital Region Board’s staff when it comes to potentially rejecting the county’s municipal development plan.
“This has nothing to do with regional planning but it’s about eliminating competition and choice in the meeting,” Rigney said.
Councillor Tom Flynn, who was in favour of both having the meeting and the motion to withdraw the municipal development plan from the Capital Region Board meeting, said withdrawing the plan and resubmitting it after the requested clarifications gives the Capital Region Board no excuse for rejecting it.
“It’s much more difficult for all those members to vote against it without being political,” Flynn said.
Administration had recommended to Sturgeon County council they withdraw and address the concerns.
“The majority of us thought it was probably wise to go with that recommendation. It gives us a far better chance to get it approved in a shorter time than going forward with it right away.”
Delaying the meeting wouldn’t have changed the result of the motion, Flynn said, and he noted the way the meeting was called was legitimate under the Municipal Government Act.
The withdrawal of the Sturgeon County municipal development plan from the Capital Region Board’s Aug. 8 agenda resulted in the meeting being cancelled. Chair Nolan Crouse said the cancellation was because without the MDP, there wasn’t enough material to justify bringing the board members together for what would have been a brief meeting.