Rocky View council gives controversial community green light
Despite its controversial nature, Rocky View County council approved stage one of Harmony, a development that could house 10,000 residents at full build-out, July 3.
Following several hours of discussion, council voted 8-1 to subdivide 350 acres of land on the north and west sides of the Springbank Airport for the development of 370 single detached and 54 semi-detached lots, one residential townhouse parcel, two village centres, a school, several businesses, a lake/reservoir, a park, water treatment plant and a road network for phase one. The total size of the 537-house development will be 1,529 acres.
“I really think it’s worthwhile for the County to see this through,” said Councillor Earl Solberg. “It will be a contribution to the entire province of Alberta and to Western Canada.”
The vote came the day after the Springbank Airport Business and Pilots Association (SABPA) and two dozen Springbank residents held an emergency meeting protesting the development, according to media reports.
The group cited the impact on the existing community, increase in rural population, and the proximity to the airport as its main concerns.
Representatives of the SABPA said living so close to one of the country’s busiest teaching airports would pose significant safety risks to residents.
“This isn’t the first development that’s been proposed in close proximity to an airport,” said Councillor Greg Boehlke. “I believe that optimism is what built this country, and if you start looking at the glass being half-empty before a development gets off the ground, there would be no movement or growth anywhere.”
Despite the number of people who attended the meeting in Springbank, a report from County staff noted that 21 letters of support and seven letters of opposition were received from the 188 area landowners to whom the subdivision application was circulated.
“The overwhelming majority of people are in favour of this development, not opposed to it,” said Boehlke.
“The loud, squeaky wheel has been getting more attention than it actually deserves.”
Springbank-area councillor Kim Magnuson motioned that council approve the subdivision, as Harmony was approved by previous council in 2007, but said she has doubts that the project will succeed.
“One of these two large projects - Harmony or the airport - is going to fail in the end,” said Magnuson.
“I don’t think they can coexist. It’s a big experiment.”
Although she supported the motion, Deputy Reeve Margaret Bahcheli said she was concerned about increasing the county’s population by 25 per cent over the next 20 years, as it would put pressure on the surrounding community.
She said it is also important to remember the airport will continue to operate whether the development moves forward or not.
“Whatever happens in terms of residential development, the airport will continue,” she said.
“It will not shut down, and it will not be bullied down. It doesn’t matter how upset or outraged people are, this is going to be the situation.”
Councillor Al Sacuta, who was the sole vote against the subdivision, said he did not support the project in any capacity.
“Building a city of 10,000 people in the middle of the country is an extremely bad idea,” said Sacuta.
“Thousands of cars every day will plug up the Highway 1 every morning and every evening. It’s simply going to be a bedroom community of Calgary in a location it should not be.”
Councillor Paul McLean disagreed with Sacuta, saying the development could benefit the surrounding area.
“There is an opportunity for this to have more than a live-and-commute environment,” said McLean.
“There are some thriving communities that are close to airports. As the airport grows, it could create new opportunities for those that live there.”
“I think growth has to happen somewhere in the west (part of the county), and this is a comprehensive, well-planned community,” said Councillor Liz Breakey.
“Let the market decide. This is phase one. Let’s see what happens from there.”
Council set conditions for the developer, including obligations to construct and pay for all utility and road infrastructure for the subdivision; upgrades to the roads leading in and out of the community; and increased noise insulation in the construction of homes in order to decrease noise from the airport.
The plan for Harmony consists of nine phases and will commence with the development of show homes and utility infrastructure as early as 2013.