The vocal opposition got their way when Canal Flats Council defeated an RV resort property proposal last week.
The council chambers were packed for the last meeting, Monday, September 11th, where council was scheduled to decide the fate of the project.
Mayor Ute Juras cited the controversial proposal’s effect, stating, “The thing I can’t ignore is the overwhelming opposition to this. I would be afraid of what would happen if this passes regarding the division of this village.”
She did say that after giving consideration to the pros and cons of the development, and acknowledging the money would help the village, she questioned the location of the RV resort and single-family home development, proposed by Benny Boyz Ventures Ltd.
“It could be a good development somewhere in the village, but I ultimately question that location,” Ms. Juras stated.
Councillors Paul Marcil and Marie Delorme spoke at length for reasons in favour of the development.
“Is this project needed in this community? I would give it a resounding yes,” said Ms. Delorme. However, she also expressed some reservations, including the location for the development and lack of solid answers by provincial government officials regarding some questions raised by her and others in the community, especially in regards to how new projects may affect the bighorn sheep population.
Mr. Marcil remarked that management would want a return on their “substantial development” costs, so would run a tight ship at the seasonal-use lease property project, and he pointed to the need for economic growth in the village.
“Businesses need customers, pure and simple,” he remarked, concluding by listing the financial incentives he added up for the village should the project move forward.
Councillor Karl Sterzer spoke off the cuff, citing he spent in excess of 150 hours investigating, discussing and reading materials related to the proposal. He praised the process, though not the personal attacks against Council.
“As hard has it has been for everybody, I think it’s been an excellent process,” said Mr. Sterzer. “The fact that this room is full tonight, the fact the two public hearings were nearly full—the first one for sure to capacity—means this town is engaged, that people are all thinking about the future in the village of Canal Flats.”
Mr. Sterzer said with a “limited economy” in Canal Flats, it is important to consider development in the village, especially given that taxes will need to go up at some point. However, he said at the end of the day, the people elected him and the people came in with a “loud voice” against this project.
Councillor Erin Gornik did not speak out at the meeting, nor did she return multiple phone calls from the Pioneer to elaborate on her vote against the development.
The first bylaw was to change the zoning from A2, which allows for development such as a dog kennel, sanitary landfill site, hostel, sawmill and more, to a zoning that would allow for the RV resort. Councillor Marcel voted in favour, with councilors Delorme, Sterzer, Gornik and Mayor Juras voting against.
The second bylaw, which would bring the land in question into the urban containment area, was also defeated, with Councilors Marcel and Delorme voting for and the remainder voting against.
In a follow-up interview with Ms. Delorme, she explained that it made sense to amend the OCP to include containment of the urban area.
“We have very limited land base here, why would you exclude something,” she elaborated on her vote.
Following the meeting, Mr. Marcel , the sole councilor to vote in favour of the development, remarked on the vote that democracy ruled the day.
“It’s a democracy. You state your position, you place your vote and if you win, you win and if you lose, you lose.”
But Mr. Marcel remained optimistic, citing the economic development strategy in place and the projects coming down the line, including the opening of a new gypsum mine in the near future.
“There are opportunities available,” Mr. Marcel remarked. “Basically, it’s making Canal Flats an attractive and exiting place to be, to stand out and make it something different… that’s what we really have to create here, is jobs, or make it easy to start jobs here.”
Barry Benson of Benny Boyz said he has no further plans for the land at this time.
“Obviously we’re disappointed, but the Village council has indicated their position, so that’s that,” he stated. “What can you say?”