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MD tourism strategy in the works

The company hired to undertake the MD of Bighorn's tourism strategy hopes to hear from every MD ratepayer, organization or group as it works to develop a strategic plan to develop a sustainable community.

The company hired to undertake the MD of Bighorn's tourism strategy hopes to hear from every MD ratepayer, organization or group as it works to develop a strategic plan to develop a sustainable community.

Richard Pauls of EcDev Solutions, which was awarded the contract in mid-December, told council Tuesday, Jan. 11, that as part of the process to develop the Sustainable Economic Development and Tourism Strategy (SEDTS), his company intends to hold three focus groups and conduct face-to-face and telephone interviews as part of the process to gather input from the public.

Pauls said the intent is to also include a link to a survey on the MD's website as well.

“We really do want to be inclusive and hear from everybody in this municipality, " Pauls said. “We do plan on connecting with anyone and everybody. "

Councillor Paul Ryan, who spearheaded the initiative, said the process has to be inclusive and ratepayers need to be engaged if the MD is going to craft a suitable plan.

“There's a need to understand the economic environment in our municipality. We need to understand it before managing it, " Ryan said, adding developing a Bow Valley-wide economic zone that promotes trade mobility is a priority.

MD Reeve Dene Cooper said allowing residents and business owners to be engaged in the process of developing a plan and a vision for the MD's future is important and urgent.

“We have to have a dialogue in our community so that we can move to the next best place we can be, " Cooper said. “We have tremendous natural capital in this MD. It is amazing to me that when people come and begin looking over our municipality and realize the majesty that exists with so few people. "

Pauls said tourism, along with ranching and industry, is a key part of the MD's economic development and future.

The project is expected to be completed by April.

The MD of Bighorn is moving toward formalizing a process to manage buildings that encroach onto municipal roads or road allowances.

The document, once approved, will provide the municipality with a process to enter into a request from ratepayers for an encroachment agreement.

Until now, community planner Tracy Woitenko said, the process has been haphazard.

“This standardizes that with the policy, allowing encroachment agreements to occur on development that has been around for a very long time, " she said, adding that applies to a number of houses in Exshaw.

The policy, however, would not apply to fences that were put on MD property within the past few years.

“The policy doesn't affect function of the roads and buildings have to be in good shape, " Woitenko said.

Council agreed that not all encroachments are historic, as surveys and development was disorganized before 1988 when the MD incorporated, according to Reeve Dene Cooper.

He added council should have the right to determine if officials should look at the more modern encroachments or not.

“We shouldn't be completely handcuffed if something unexpected came along. I don't have a problem with being prepared for an unexpected situation, " Councillor Eric Butters said.

As part of the policy, Woitenko said council has the right to waive application fees, which it approved Tuesday.

Council accepted the agreement as information. It will return for approval in February.

Council adopted a policy Tuesday, Jan. 11, requiring developers to prepare a Development Impact Assessment (DIA) that gauges both the positive and negative effects of development on a site.

The policy, however, is not mandatory for every development. Instead, it would only be used when deemed necessary.

According to the draft policy, a DIA would also be used to help mitigate potential problems. It would also be used to make informed land use and development decisions.

Community Planner Tracy Woitenko said a separate policy is used to determine if a DIA is needed.

If a provincial Environmental Impact Assessment is required for a development, a DIA would not normally be sought, according to the policy.

First reading of the Dead Man's Flats Area Redevelopment Plan has been delayed until February to give MD administration time to solve a few new problems.

The plan will likely come back before council at its February meeting.

Assistant Municipal Manager Greg Birch said storm water management on Second Avenue is one of the issues holding up the process, as the solution is more complex than originally perceived.

Birch said the MD initially considered curbs and drains, but came to the conclusion that might not work, or it would be “very costly ".

Instead, catch basins are being considered, however, the contractors preparing the plan need to consider the topography to see if it would work, as west of Second Avenue is private land.

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