By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
The Town of Coaldale will be reviewing a key development strategy in response to recent concerns over how the town was implementing it.
During their regular Jan. 14 meeting, Coaldale town council were asked to approve a review of the town’s Integrated Development Strategy (IDS).
Spencer Croil, director of development and community planning for the town, told council that the review was needed due to public concern.
“Essentially, this is just a matter of good practice, good planning practice,” said Croil.
“Given that there’s been some recent concern over how the IDS has been interpreted, in terms of relatively significant community growth items, and we don’t have a formal response or a formal understanding, as it were, as to how the IDS has been and will continue to be interpreted.”
Croil recommended that council approve the town to reach out to their professional planning consultancy — the Oldman River Regional Services Commission (ORRSC) — and get them to do a formal, technical review of the IDS document, so that the town can best implement the document.
“I should highlight that, regardless of what we look at now, in the recent processes undertaken in the past, annexation and other planning processes, this document — although never formally adopted by the town or the county — has always been considered the broader context of how and where and when and why to build our community, in conjunction with how to work that out with the county.”
Although it wasn’t brought up during the meeting, issues revolving around the IDS were raised by attendees at a Dec. 10 public hearing to rezone land associated with the Malloy Drain project. During the meeting, residents had raised concerns over the town seemingly ignoring IDS recommendations for the area, which included wetlands, stormwater ponds and no housing, due to plans to construct a proposed high school there.
Coun. Bill Chapman asked if ORRSC was part of the initial research for the IDS, to which Croil said his understanding was they were on the “fringes” of the initial process.
However, Croil said there was enough institutional knowledge there, and they have reached out to the consultants who helped prepare the original strategy to help with the review.
Chapman asked if they would need to inform the county about the review, “given that the original research project was sort of like a dual” project. Croil replied that it would be a part of good practice to reach out again.
Chapman also inquired if it would “force them” into formally adopting the IDS, if a new study or revision is done.
“No, it would not, in any way shape or form. What we are really looking for is what part of the IDS to carry forward, and to continue to help inform our planning decisions, and which part of the IDS to recognize as highly conceptual, and the meaning of the recheck or reconsideration, given that the document is getting on in age, in terms of when it was first written,” said Croil. “And highlighting the fact that it has never been reviewed since it was conceptualized.”
Coun. Roger Hohm asked that after the review is done, why they wouldn’t be formally adopting the IDS.
“I’m struggling why we would go through the process to review, if we’re not going to, at the end of the day, formally adopt it, along with formally adopting the new municipal plan,” said Hohm.
“Basically, the short answer to that question would be that we don’t know enough yet to know if it’s, if there are enough parts of the whole that would make it necessary to adopt that document,” said Croil. “And understand there were some detail or technical deficiencies with the document, when it was first presented to county and town council, back when it was developed. So really, this is just a way of closing the loop. Instead of having it come up during relatively significant planning proposals and planning projects, and always being interpreted in different ways by different parties, this is just a way of providing a more formal sense of what value the document provides, from this point forward.”
Adding that it was just a strategy, and not a plan, Croil said it may or may not be worthwhile to adopt it. The review would help identify what parts of the document are still relevant and put them in future planning work, such as the new town plan.
Mayor Kim Craig said that when the IDS was first undertaken, it was “the benefit of a $500,000 grant” from the province, and $25,000 from both the town and county that allowed the IDS to take place.
“We did a lot of discussion, there was a lot of technical input onto the IDS,” said Craig. “There was no mechanism to initiate any of the strategies that were uncovered during the strategy process, so I think this would be a valuable exercise to — with the benefit of hindsight — see what value the actual IDS and then, — like you say councillor Hohm and councillor Chapman — whether or not you want to entertain adopting any of the separate strategies within, with the up to date information on, you know, to get a firm understanding of what the people, that constitute the strategy, what they’re, how in depth they were on the planning, the engineering if there was, what kind of inputs were in there and how valid they are in conceptualizing the Coaldale of 2019.”
Coun. Briane Simpson inquired as to how much the review would cost in terms of man hours and money, and, if it would be “doubling up” with the municipal development plan when they didn’t need to. Croil replied that the review was part of the town plan that is being developed, so there was no additional cost “for that particular part of the project”.
“Instead of trying to retrofit a plan that is now almost six years old, and bring that into a format where it’s been updated with all the new information we have from six years ago to now. It’s more likely that we take the relevant parts of that plan and build it into a new town plan,” said Croil.
Council passed a motion to approve a brief technical review of the IDS, in a 6-1 split vote. Coun. Henry ‘Butch’ Pauls was the sole vote against.