Annexation to Olds better than new MDP: developers
Annexation to the Town of Olds would be a better option than remaining part of Mountain View County under the proposed new Municipal Development Plan, the developers of Netook Crossing told council last week.
Presenting their objections at Wednesday’s public hearings on the proposed MDP, the Netook development team criticized the county’s consultation process for lacking “true dialogue” and defended their plans for nodal residential development on the west side of Highway 2/27.
Greg Brown, lead planning consultant for the project, said the developers’ preferred option would be for council to reinstate the higher densities and commitment to piped services approved in past agreements.
“If not we recommend that council commence the annexation process with the Town of Olds,” Brown said.
“A majority of landowners at Netook would support annexation” if council does not amend the proposed MDP, he added.
Asked by Div. 7 Coun. Al Kemmere for clarification, Netook community liaison Kim Smith said she was surprised by the unanimity of landowners on the question.
“We have letters from every landowner supporting annexation,” Smith said, after earlier presenting 54 letters of support representing 65 properties in the area.
Asked if the landowners had been informed about the potential costs of annexation, Smith said no.
“We felt it was premature to talk to residents about it,” Brown said.
“What I think the residents are telling us is they supported the original vision.”
Neuroese Properties representative Herb Styles, who had previously warned council that the developers would not rule out legal action, also said annexation “could be” an option.
During a separate presentation, resident Ron Vogel said annexation should be considered since “neither I nor a lot of other taxpayers want the county to … pay for a town outside Olds.”
Vogel said placing the Highway 2/27 area under a Direct Control designation is not the answer.
“A future council could increase the density and we would be in the town business.”
Several presenters urged council to stick to the lower densities outlined in the proposed MDP.
While the Netook developers complained of council acting “unilaterally” to set densities and other provisions in the new plan, Steve Algra commended it for doing so. The previous council approved the original concept, “but I don’t believe council was acting in the best interests of the county,” Algra said.
Jim Thain said he was among county residents who “would not tolerate the MDP that was put in front of us,” adding that one reason so many councillors were replaced in the last election was because “the MDP didn’t have the support of the people.”
Thain also noted that the Netook developers had hired “a staff member from the old administration” – former planning manager Nathan Petherick – to assist them with their land-use applications.
“I’m really surprised to see decisions made by past council and administration are being brought forward at this time,” Thain said.
Lloyd Quantz also commended the present council’s approach and said it was in lockstep with the majority.
“If you didn’t act in the manner you have, you’d be replaced in a heartbeat,” Quantz said.
When Quantz, who has been critical of the Netook project in published letters to the editor, made a reference to “a threatening environment,” Div. 6 Coun. Paddy Munro asked Quantz if he had been threatened.
“Yeah, I have been,” Quantz said, adding that threats of legal action against the county were also inappropriate.
“For me I can’t go any further than that,” Quantz said.
Sandy Jones, who lives north of the Olds Golf Club, said she approved of the “significant changes” in the new plan.
“I think overall growth is beneficial … but we must ensure there is responsible growth and phased growth,” Jones said, identifying transportation and water as vital services.
Former Div. 6 councillor Liz Negropontes said she had never been in favour of the Highway 2/27 concept.
“We had an administration that talked us into it, said it was great. I asked for the numbers but never got the numbers. Today we’ve got a lot of assumptions … Are we going to trust that the developers are going to do the right thing?” Negropontes said.
Former council candidate Michael Radford noted some people had a vested interest in the Netook project and asked whether council should “continue with a bad deal if there’s other options available on the table.”
Former candidate Ken Heck registered his strong objection to the MDP, saying the present council has undermined the county’s “reputation as a fair and honest place to do business” and “decimated the professional planning team” hired under the previous administration.
By not honouring past commitments, “council is saying honesty, integrity and fairness have no place in the county,” Heck said.
“I believe the way this plan has been implemented has been a disaster.”
“Do you believe the majority of the ratepayers supported that vision?” Div. 1 Coun. Kevin Good asked.
“Yes I do,” Heck said.
Peter Lacey, representing Prodev, whose business park is situated on the south side of Highway 27, said he supported council listening to the public by drawing up a new MDP and changing the rules for land use. The problem, he said, is that significant dollars were spent under the old rules.
“Whenever there has been significant dollars spent, it’s a difficult situation … I’ve got $11 million invested in this project,” Lacey said.
“We can’t just disregard previous agreements. Rules change, I understand that. But agreements are in place. Let’s have a plan to work together, so the county doesn’t lose money and the developers don’t lose money.”
Changes in the current draft of the MDP “will probably eliminate the economic viability of having the quarter serviced,” Lacey said.
More than 80 people attended the public hearing, which is scheduled to resume this Wednesday.