Public forum in Springbank to discuss municipal processes
Monday, Feb 24, 2014 06:00 am
The Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA), a non-profit organization, will be hosting a forum in Springbank on March 8, to engage the public in a discussion about municipalities’ processes when dealing with proposed developments.
“It’s going to be an exciting and dynamic event, and an opportunity for people to be heard and to learn,” said Stephen Garvey, FDA founder and executive director.
He said the event is a follow-up to the first FDA public forum held in April 2013 to discuss Rocky View County’s (RVC) processes during the approval of the Bingham Crossing development - a commercial and seniors housing project roughly 80 acres in size that will be located kitty corner to Calaway Park in Springbank.
“This is important because so much has happened since then (the last forum). This is a way for people to come in and reflect on everything that has happened, learn from it and see how to move forward,” said Garvey.
Rocky View County (RVC) council approved amending the North Springbank Area Structure Plan and changing the land use bylaw to approve the Bingham Crossing development following two heated public hearings in 2012.
Later that year, two Springbank residents backed by the Springbank Community Planning Association (SCPA), filed two judicial reviews questioning Rocky View County council’s fairness of process during the public hearings and whether the notification area for the public hearings should have been expanded.
Both Court of Queen’s Bench judges presiding over the judicial reviews rendered their decision in 2013 in favour of the County, and court-awarded costs were ordered to be paid to the County and the developer by the SCPA.
Garvey said the public forum will be an audience-driven event with discussion leading out of attendants’ concerns.
Several guest speakers, including former Springbank-area Councillor Kim Magnuson and current Councillor Jerry Arshinoff, will be presenting. Garvey said the developer of Bingham Crossing, Ron Renaud, and Alberta Minister of Municipal Affairs Ken Hughes have also been invited to speak.
Garvey said he’ll be presenting ideas for reforms to the municipal process and how they could be implemented.
“We’re going to discuss what is the fairest process possible and most inclusive participatory process to make it as democratic as possible. How can we make sure the voice of the people are being heard and included, within the extent of the law?” said Garvey.
A youth jury, between the ages of 16 and 25, consisting of students from Springbank Community High School, the University of Calgary and FDA, will be at the forum to listen to the discussion and questions raised by the public, said Garvey.
“Then they will deliberate and share what they felt they heard,” he said, adding it’s important to engage youth in the event and in municipal politics as “they are our future.”
“This (event) is not a matter of taking sides, but to share opinions. We want an open and friendly environment.”
Garvey said he will also be presenting a report he prepared about his recommended changes to the Municipal Government Act (MGA) to enable municipalities to charge developers for soft infrastructure costs.
Soft infrastructure is defined as infrastructure relating to recreation, libraries, protective services, fire protective services and schools.
Developers in Rocky View County only face a $800 Voluntary Recreation Levy because the County is unable to charge for soft infrastructure costs under the MGA.
Section 648 allows the municipality to impose levies on hard infrastructure projects – to recoup a portion of the costs from the developer – but do not allow the same levies to be placed on soft infrastructure.
Garvey said he encourages as many people as possible to attend the event.
“The more diverse the group of people… the more ideas and perspectives we can share.”
The public forum will be held March 8 at the Springbank Heritage Club from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.