Without an extension from Alberta Municipal Affairs, the Calgary Metropolitan growth and servicing plan in the works for several years will fall short of its intended purpose.
To meet the Mar. 1 deadline, seven of its 10 participating municipalities would have to approve the plan at the Feb. 26 meeting of the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB).
Cochrane Mayor Jeff Genung agrees this is unlikely to happen, and the board is proceeding as if the extension to June 1 has already been received from Alberta Municipal Affairs.
He believes being forced to turn in the work they've completed to date would fall short of the aspirations of the CMRB when it was established in 2018.
"I think it would be more advantageous if we have a plan that we vote on and approve as a group," says Genung.
He says deeper discussions have only occurred within the last few months.
"The deadline is looming, so it's been a tough few months of long meetings with heavy discussion agenda items around them, but we're getting there."
Even when the plan is approved, he says the work doesn't stop there.
"I think we strive for perfection, and that's a great thing, but we're not going to build a plan that is going to be perfect for every single community, so we each have to give and take a little. We need to get the best plan we can out the door in the time we have remaining, but we're going to continue to work on this."
Genung points to a comment made by Charles Hales, of HDR Inc., during the Feb. 8 presentation to Cochrane town council. Hales referred to the CMRB as a life sentence.
"We all kind of chuckled about that, but it stuck with me. He's right, in a way, it may be something we don't always enjoy going to, but it's going to be something we have to get used to as part of our life from now on, and that we need to work together as a region, for the betterment of the region.
"We have to stop looking at it as another layer of government or a roadblock or constraint or control mechanism," he continues. "We have to start to trust one another, that we want what's best for all of us collectively."
While strides have been made, the largest stumbling block remains the rural-urban interface of the region's three rural and seven urban municipalities,
That was evident when an update on the plan's process was provided to the RVC council on Feb. 8.
Several Rocky View County councillors remain apprehensive about whether the plan will stifle its plans, and hinder its robust industrial growth in recent years. The county has in existence over 100 inter-municipal agreements with adjacent municipalities, the bulk of which are related to planning. Some councillors view CMRB as redundant and expensive.
Peter Calthorpe, of HRD Inc., told the council the plan doesn't intend to replace the existing agreements and relationships, rather amplify and build upon their merits.
In the past, the county expressed concern over the lack of an appeal process to resolve any development disputes between neighbouring municipalities. An appeal process is now in development.
A third round of public consultation may be completed should an extension be granted. It's an agenda item for the Feb. 26 board meeting.
Genung was disappointed with the amount of input received in the first round. It improved in the second but he says most residents in the region likely still don't know the CRMC exists.
He points to many reasons for this, including the inability to initially be included on social media, but he also believes municipalities must share the responsibility of not getting the message out.
"We have to all look in the mirror and say maybe we could each do a better job of beating the drum in our community, not necessarily asking them to approve or disapprove of the plan but to know it's underway."
The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board was created in 2018 and since then has been working towards completing a regional plan for its 10 participating municipalities. Besides Cochrane and RVC, it includes Calgary. Chestermere, Okotoks, High River, Airdrie, Strathmore, Foothills County, and Wheatland County.
Its mandate is to support the long-term sustainability of the region by ensuring environmentally responsible land-use planning, growth management, and efficient use of land; coordinating infrastructure; promoting economic well-being and competitiveness; and engaging the public in the development of its policies.