BIGHORN – A draft policy laying out the groundwork for municipalities to work together was released for the Town of Canmore and MD of Bighorn earlier this year.
The Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) is mandated by the Municipal Government Act and communities are required to have an official policy in place by 2020. The 14-page draft document for Canmore and Bighorn sets the policy framework for planning matters of mutual interest including but not limited to future land use, utility servicing, environmental matters and transportation corridors.
"The MD retains local autonomy with respect to decisions made within our jurisdiction,"Rob Ellis, Chief Administrative Officer for the MD of Bighorn said in an email. "The same is true for Canmore. The purpose of the IDP is to address land use planning on lands bordering both municipalities."
Though the MD of Bighorn and Town of Canmore share borders in the Dead Man Flat's area along the Trans-Canada Highway, determining the best use of the land has already been an issue that previously came up between the two neighbouring communities.
When a land swap between the MD and the Alberta government failed to get approval in 2012 after nine years of negotiations, the MD proposed an area structure plan to develop the area near the wildlife underpass.
When the area structure plan was approved at Bighorn council to develop the land, the Town of Canmore, which shares the border with a wildlife corridor on the other side, filed an appeal against the plan, claiming the MD's plan to set aside the 29 hectares for light development would impact the effectiveness of the wildlife underpass and adjacent wildlife corridors.
The appeal was dismissed by the Municipal Government Board, allowing the MD to move forward with development. However renewed negotiations with the province halted any development from ever proceeding. On Sept. 30, the province finalized the land exchange with the MD.
"IDP policies define how communication, cooperation and decision making and dispute resolution on matters of mutual interest of lands in the IDP area [occurs]. For the MD it means having improved communication with Canmore to identify potential land use issues, so we can work collaboratively to address them," Ellis explained.
With no official policies in place before, the draft document now outlines the resolution hierarchy before appealing to the Municipal Government Board.
Municipalities must attempt to resolve disputes internally through administrative discussion, intermunicipal committee discussions and mediation. Only then if a dispute cannot be resolved can the municipalities make an appeal.
"The IDP creates a framework for ongoing communication and dialogue," Ellis said.
Tracy Woitenko, development planner with the Town of Canmore, confirmed there were no policies in place before the IDP, but noted when land use issues came up with the Town, Canmore staff would circulate the information to surrounding area municipalities offering the opportunity to comment.
"There was nothing in place before, but now we are meeting the requirements for future land use and servicing [agreements]," she said.
By identifying areas of mutual interest, such as land use, utility servicing, environmental matters and transportation corridors, Ellis noted the MD and Canmore are better aligned to address future development on the shared borders.
The MD already has IDPs in place with Clearwater County and Improvement District No. 9, with draft plans underway with Rocky View County, Mountain View County and the Town of Canmore. Other IDPs to expect for Bighorn in the future include the Summer Village of Ghost and Improvement District No. 5.
The first open house for the IDP was held in August in Dead Man's Flats with the first readings expected to be before the respective councils later this year and the public hearings to be announced.