Rocky View County (RVC) council has requested the preparation of an extensive background report on the 146 acres of land currently leased to the Cochrane and District Agricultural Society (CDAS). The information will be utilized by a committee to determine long-term options and potentially bring to a head the discussion on whether CDAS will be staying or moving elsewhere.
A detailed package of information providing historical information on the property's past ownership, studies previously undertaken, potentially sensitive information on its value as well as how other recreational holdings within the county could benefit from its disposal will be included. It was proposed the committee formed afterward should include representatives of RVC, CDAS and the Town of Cochrane, where the land is located.
Div. 9 Councillor Crystal Kissell and Div. 3 Councillor Kevin Hanson co-authored a notice of motion to discuss the land's future use and give CDAS certainty of whether or not it will be remaining on a property it has occupied for 32 years. The councillors recommended the land be removed from the disposal list until a direction was set.
Well into the 1 1/2 hour discussion, that included an incamera session, Reeve Greg Boehlke caught council off-guard by pointing out the land is not currently on the disposal list and cannot be sold unless a resolution is passed by the council. It came as a shock to the council and instead they focused on the bigger question.
In January 2016, RVC put the land on the block, had received one proposal that was rejected, and since then its future has been left in limbo. Earlier in 2015, CDAS requested a new 50-year lease, which was turned down. Now the current lease expires in 2025 leaving CDAS with less than seven years remaining on their lease.
A vote of council determined CDAS president Justin Burwash, nor anyone else, would have the opportunity to address council on the issue. Burwash, who was present, understood their rationale, but he did draft a letter to council reinforcing the society's position that the Rocky View lands and the future needs of the ag society are two different discussions.
"The more important direction/motion that is required today is to create a joint committee with the Town of Cochrane, RVC and the Ag Society with the mandate to firmly conclude and recommend whether staying on this land or relocating to a new site is best for the long-term future of the Ag Society," Burwash explained in his letter.
He believes some people entering the discussion aren't focusing on the needs of the Ag Society and instead are expressing their passion for keeping the land for recreational use. These, he points out, are two different discussions.
He's pleased to see the council is motivated to have the discussion because time is an issue. Seven years is not a lot of time to relocate plus they will face a new hurdle when Alberta Transportation starts construction of the new Hwy. 1A-Hwy. 22 intersection. Burwash explains they will be losing access to 11 acres of Alberta Transportation land the Ag Society uses to park 1,000 cars during the annual Cochrane Fair.
"They are taking it on, which is good, and I applaud them for that," he said after the meeting. "We need them taking this on and having the tough discussions and making the decision. I'm happy about that, whatever the decision ends up being. if we're staying, that's great, let's get a long-term lease and know we're going to be there for the next 100 years. Then we can do our job as board members and make plans for that to realize our vision and business plan and try to knock off all the hurdles that are in the way. If we're relocating, then, let's go, let's find the new location and do the same thing. But a decision is what we need."
On May 1, the Ag Society made a presentation to RVC council on their needs assessment and business plan. Councillor Kissel has since been pushing for the council to make a decision on the land since.