SUNDRE — The revised and updated inter-municipal plan that was developed in coordination with Mountain View County received second and third reading to become officially adopted by the town.
Citing a section of the Municipal Government Act (MGA) that bars councillors from voting if they did not participate in the public hearing, which had been held virtually in conjunction with county counterparts on May 26, Coun. Rob Wolfe abstained.
Linda Nelson, chief administrative officer, confirmed there was still quorum to proceed.
Mike Marko, director of planning and development, provided council with a summary of the plan, which was brought in line with current MGA requirements and will serve as a planning policy document between the neighbouring municipalities to provide a framework for future land use and development along shared boundaries.
The plan was adopted by the county after returning to their regular meeting following the May 26 public hearing, Marko added.
“(The IDP), I want to emphasize, is not an annexation plan,” he said. “It’s a plan that addresses land use through its policies, and it also provides a mechanism to communicate and share development information.”
Coun. Richard Warnock moved second reading, hailing the collaborative process involved in updating the plan with the town’s county colleagues. That motion carried unanimously, followed by Coun. Cheri Funke moving third and final reading.
Seeking clarification, Coun. Todd Dalke wondered whether wording used in the document under a couple of points about annexation could potentially be interpreted as constraining long-term growth within the town’s existing boundaries.
“It does not reflect any intent for annexation at this time,” said Marko. “Other than protecting agricultural lands and recognizing that the town may grow within the 20-year period.”
Mayor Terry Leslie later added as a point of order that the process to date had provided plenty of opportunity for discussion, and that such questions would typically be raised during second reading.
However, recognizing the importance of ensuring councillors are clear on what they’re voting for, the mayor agreed to allow the questions.
The town already has adequate room to accommodate projected growth over the next 20 years, he said.
“If our growth starts to get faster than it is currently, then certainly we would approach the county,” he said, adding that leads into the point about striving to reach an inter-municipal agreement with the county on any future annexations prior to approaching the provincial government.
“That’s just a matter of process. We certainly talk to our neighbours first,” he said.
In the hypothetical event a future agreement cannot be reached, he said the next step would then be to turn to the Municipal Government Board.
“But we have never abdicated our responsibility by leaping past the conversation with our neighbours to go directly to the Municipal Government Board. So, that would be my interpretation,” he said.
Providing additional context, Nelson said if Sundre were ever to exceed its growth expectations over the next couple of decades and require more land, “that is when an annexation would take place so that we could expand our boundaries to ensure we continue to have (room for) at least 20 years of growth.”
Further, she said the Municipal Government Board outlines expectations for neighbouring municipalities to make every effort to reach an agreement before seeking to resolve any disputes with the provincial body.
Dalke said he understands the process, but wondered why those points were added in the plan as they are already outlined in the MGA.
Without any further conversation, council proceeded to carry Funke’s motion unopposed.