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Banff to cut 'red tape' by giving town manager power to appoint development officer

”[It’s] to save time and really cut red tape of having to go back to council for an appointment that’s already contemplated in the land-use bylaw."
Banff Town Hall 2
Banff Town Hall

BANFF – A proposal to cut red tape by delegating authority to the municipality’s town manager to appoint a development officer has met with some opposition within council ranks.

At a Feb. 8 governance and finance committee meeting, administration recommended a number of amendments to the land-use bylaw, which establishes the decision-making process for issuing development permits in Banff.

A development officer is currently appointed by a resolution of council, but Town of Banff officials said the plan to delegate that authority to the town manager aims to better streamline the development approval authority process.

"[It’s] to save time and really cut red tape of having to go back to council for an appointment that’s already contemplated in the land-use bylaw,” said Randall McKay, the Town’s manager of strategic priorities and special projects.

Several other municipalities defer that authority to appoint a development officer to the CAO or town manager, or in some cases, the director of the planning and development department.

“We felt this was a prudent change to align ourselves with other municipalities and streamline that process,” McKay said.

But Councillors Ted Christensen and Peter Poole are against such a move, wanting to maintain the existing council oversight.

“I see it as a check and balance in the democratic process; not onerous for council and not a threat to administration,” Coun. Christensen said, noting development officer appointments don’t happen very often.

“Being that there are discretionary decisions that the development authority makes that often involve sizeable financial considerations and involve a broad perspective in the community, it’s wise to have that check and balance in place.”

But Coun. Chip Olver, who sits on Banff’s Municipal Planning Commission, said the roles of the development officer are already specifically outlined in the bylaw, which has council approval and oversight.

“I don’t see that this is an onerous task on council, but I also don’t think it’s a necessary task,” she said.

Mayor Karen Sorensen agreed, saying she believes appointment of the staff member should fall under the responsibility of the town manager.

“I have no idea why it would ever have been council’s decision,” the mayor said.

“From my perspective, it should have always have been, frankly, the director of planning, and I am OK with the fact that we’re going to the town manager.”

McKay said he doesn’t know why the bylaw initially outlined that a development officer must be appointed by a resolution of council.

“In my tenure over 25 years, there’s never been an issue with the appointment of a development officer,” he said.

“There was one question about why we needed more than one early on in the process, and it became very obvious I think with the kind of workload we do.”

Town Manager Kelly Gibson said that much like administration’s appointment of an assessor, appointment of a development officer doesn’t require council involvement.

“I am the sole employee of the council. I am ultimately accountable to council if there is a poor decision, or council has a concern about a decision that I have made,” he said.

In November, administration presented three proposed bylaws to the governance and finance committee for feedback – one each for development officers, Municipal Planning Commission and Development Appeal Board.

These will be brought back to council for discussion and debate at a later date.

“This is to pull all of these out of the land-use bylaw and have a standalone bylaw for each of those functional areas,” McKay said.

“Council would endorse each separately and accordingly, and decide whether or not the authority invested on those groups and individual is acceptable.”

Cathy Ellis

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