MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - In a split decision, county council has approved a new business support pilot project.
The move came by way of motion at the recently regularly scheduled council meeting.
The motion approved states that council endorses the “business support pilot project for unserviced, overnight, self-contained accommodation, and additional events associated with approved uses, and direct administration to implement the project.”
Deputy reeve Greg Harris and councillors Alan Miller, Dwayne Fulton and Gord Krebs voted for the motion, while reeve Angela Aalbers and councillors Jennifer Lutz and Peggy Johnson voted against.
Developed by administration on the instruction of council, the pilot project will run from the May long weekend (May 21) to the end of the seasonal camping season (Oct. 31).
Under the project, businesses with approved development permits for riding arena, public; business, agri-tourism; and direct control districts with event facilities are eligible to provide un-serviced overnight self-contained accommodation unless the direct control district includes the opportunity to apply for a use to allow for camping or has been issued a development permit that includes camping.
Eligible businesses must pre-register with administration before participating in the project.
The county will not enforce complaints received for businesses participating in the project when the un-serviced overnight self-contained accommodation is contrary to/in contravention of the conditions of development permit that prohibit camping or overnight accommodation. However, administration will record the number of complaints received.
The un-serviced overnight self-self-contained accommodation can occur outside approved hours of operation; days or months of operation; or event.
The pilot project does not exempt compliance with provincial and/or federal requirements.
During a lengthy discussion of the proposal, some councillors voiced their respective support or opposition to the project.
Coun. Dwayne Fulton said he believes the initiative will be worthwhile in the long term.
“I think this could be beneficial to these agri-tourism businesses, and down the road I think the data and information we are going to glean from this will help us in drafting and creating land use bylaw changes or development permit changes to allow for the use of these overnight and unserviced abilities for people to come out and make use of these businesses and facilities that we have throughout the county,” said Fulton.
Immediately following Fulton’s comments, Coun. Greg Harris said, “I agree and I couldn’t have said it better. We like to make data-based decisions and if we don’t run a pilot project we are not going to have data to base a decision on. If we don’t try this we are standing still and all the comments we make about supporting business and about economic development is moot.”
Coun. Jennifer Lutz said, “Without a public hearing and proper engagement I’m not a fan of that. To me it is financial gain at the loss of somebody else. Someone else is going to financially gain without going through the process and the consultation that will impact potentially somebody else. You are creating a competitive advantage for one and not the other and I think we are going to get ourselves in trouble for that one.”
Coun. Peggy Johnson also opposed the pilot, saying, “One of the values in our strategic plan is that our decisions are ethical. Ethics asks what is the right thing to do and when you ask what is the right thing to do you need to consider all people, not just the folks that are going to gain financially.
“And all people includes all our ratepayers and that includes the farm businesses that surround the agri-tourism businesses and the special events, and they are going to no doubt pay over the entire summer of this pilot project and that’s why I won’t support it. I don’t think this is an ethical thing to do.”
Reeve Angela Aalbers said, “I actually am not going to support this today. I’m fearful that perhaps we haven’t put enough emphasis in the unintended consequences and not only that but in trying to figure out where we are going to go from here. I think we potentially need a little more work to say what do we see as the end goal, what are we trying to achieve. I don’t think we are ready for this right now.”
Once the pilot project is completed at the end of October, administration will prepare a report outlining the number of businesses that participated, number of complaints received, and recommendations that may include options one how un-serviced overnight self-contained accommodation may be accompanied in the future.