By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer
The council of the Municipal District of Willow Creek has approved by a split 4-3 vote re-zoning land west of Claresholm to make way for a campground, RV park and micro-brewery.
The decision came at the Aug. 11 meeting of council.
Back at its March 10 meeting, council held a public hearing on an application by Adham Jaber to re-zone 16.58 acres at NE-23-12-28-4 about five miles west of Claresholm from rural general to rural commercial to allow for a development application for the recreational vehicle park, campground, and brewery.
A variety of concerns were expressed by adjacent landowners including increased noise, traffic and fire risk; trespassing on neighbouring lands; negative interactions with livestock; the potential for drinking and driving; water access; the impact on the water table; and others.
A decision was initially postponed until council’s March 24 meeting then postponed again for two months to council’s May 26 meeting.
At that meeting, Coun. Ian Sundquist moved first reading of a bylaw to re-zone the land.
All of council was in favour except Couns. Glen Alm and John Kroetsch who were opposed.
Council then approved second reading with the vote going exactly the same way.
In order to pass all three readings of any bylaw at the same meeting, unanimous consent of council must be given.
When Reeve Maryanne Sandberg asked for unanimous consent, Alm and Kroetsch would not give it, so council tabled third reading to the Aug. 11 council meeting.
At the outset of discussion on Aug. 11, Sandberg explained to the audience in attendance, which filled the gallery, that once the public hearing on March 10 closed no further information could be received by council.
She said anyone there that day was hearing, not contributing to discussion.
“There is no audience participation in this discussion,” Sandberg said.
She recognized Patrick Lannan, who introduced himself as a retired lawyer, to ask a question.
He said he feared pressure was exerted on councillors since the last meeting.
Mike Burla, the M.D.’s planner from the Oldman River Regional Services Commission, read directly from a legal opinion reaffirming no further information could be taken on by council after the public hearing closed.
Lannan said he drew a distinction between new information and lobbying.
Sandberg said there is a difference between evidence and lobbying, and that lobbying can contain new evidence.
Stuart Derochie, an adjacent landowner to the lands being considered for re-zoning, asked if existing information could be presented in new words.
Burla said he would then recommend a new public hearing.
“(Then) everybody’s on a level playing field,” he said, adding that way the applicant and opponents have their say.
It would also be advertised in advance notifying people before it is convened.
Sandberg said if the purpose would be to re-state all the reasons for and against, she pointed to the package containing letters and information on the application.
“They’re all here,” she said.
Derrick Krizsan, the M.D.’s chief administrative officer, said if council does not feel they have enough information to make a decision, a new public hearing can be held.
Coun. Ian Sundquist said council was dealing with re-zoning. Whatever development takes place after that has to come before the municipal planning commission in an application for development. A decision on the development would be made at that point.
At this stage, he continued, all the applicant was asking for is a land use re-designation, and he had no problem with that. What they did with that use is another thing.
Alm, whose subdivision includes the subject lands, said a public hearing was held, not a lot has changed, and there has been time to go over the more than 30 submissions made on the application.
“We have the information, we’ve done our due diligence,” Alm said.
He noted re-zoning is one step of development. They have had the discussion many times, but the Municipal Government Act says re-zoning is first then development.
He wanted to reiterate council needed to be sure they were familiar with their own land-use bylaw and were not contravening it.
That means not re-zoning land to a use contrary to surrounding land uses.
“I hope everyone considers that when they vote,” Alm said.
Sandberg said she looked at her own area where John Zoeteman Park is in among agricultural land and there have been no fires or interference with livestock, and everyone gets along.
Coun. Darry Markle thanked all parties involved.
He said council has to look at the benefit to the whole M.D., pointing out rarely are all parties happy with the outcome of a decision.
There are still a lot of questions about water, vehicles, trespassing and more. They will be discussed at the development stage where there is no guarantee of approval. Right now, in principle, he was not opposed to re-zoning.
Alm said council could ask for an area structure plan to lay out answers to all those questions, realizing it is onerous to the applicant.
If the development is worth doing, then the plan should not be a problem. Otherwise, the development should not go ahead.
“In my mind at this stage we should ask for an area structure plan,” Alm said. “And get some of the answers.”
Kroetsch agreed with Alm, also wanting to see an area structure plan before taking any votes.
Sandberg asked council if they wanted to vote on third reading to re-zone or have another public hearing.
Alm asked Burla for advice on how to ask for an area structure plan.
Burla said council may need legal advice. Under the Municipal Government Act, council has to have a public hearing prior to second reading. Council had their hearing prior to second reading then passed second reading.
He suggested withdrawing the bylaw and starting over. An area structure plan, by answering questions, would provide new information. If council wanted another public hearing or an area structure plan they should start the process over.
Burla also explained an area structure plan would have to be adopted as a bylaw with three readings, and a public hearing, and be done at the same time as the re-zoning.
Markle said the matter today is the re-zoning, council has all the information, and he didn’t know what could be added.
Burla added that is not to say council couldn’t get an area structure plan before the development application.
Sandberg said they could proceed to third reading and request an area structure plan at the development stage.
Sundquist then moved third reading and Alm requested a recorded vote.
Sandberg, Markle, Sundquist and Coun. John Van Driesten voted in favour, while Alm, Kroetsch and Coun. Evan Berger voted against the motion, meaning it passed 4-3.
By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer