MD OF BIGHORN – Changes to a pair of documents to give additional clarity and more precision in the MD of Bighorn's development approval process will wait until February.
At its January meeting, council postponed a decision to revise the standards for major plans and subdivision servicing policy, and the standards for major plans document to allow staff to come back with more detailed information in February on the proposed changes.
“I think it’s really important these documents are clear and they tell the whole picture,” Reeve Lisa Rosvold said during the more than hour-long discussion.
“I think more clarity between the two documents, but most importantly clarity with the new document we’re being asked to approve.”
Coun. Paul Clark, who said he was ready to vote in favour of moving forward, said it was important any documents be easy for the general public to understand.
“So that administration has time to clean this up and make sure this document is easily readable and makes sense to a third party.”
Council approved the two policy documents in Dec. 2020.
The standards for major plans and subdivision servicing policy were established to outline the minimum requirements to prepare and approve area structure plans (ASP), area restructure plans (ARP) and conceptual schemes for future subdivision and development of land. The standards for major plans help define both the process and requirements for infrastructure servicing in ASP, ARP and conceptual schemes. Both are living documents that are regularly reviewed and updated.
The original standards for major plans and subdivision servicing policy were asked to be rescinded and replaced with the new document, while the standards for major plans asked for the original Schedule A to be rescinded and replaced with a new one.
It is anticipated Schedule B, which deals with subdivision servicing, will return to be revised in either February or March.
Bill Luka, the municipality’s director of operations, said the changes came about after discussions with developers on what was and wasn’t working, adding that requested changes were first reviewed by legal counsel.
Among concerns heard from developers were the need to have professional liability of $2 million and having to reimburse an engineer to do a professional third-party review, Luka said.
Luka said the goal is to eventually get to one document, but “it takes time to do that."
"We’re at the first stages of doing this, which is quite amazing actually, and I don’t think should be taken for granted," he said.
Any applicants are required to follow the policies under which they applied, Luka said, so if the changes are passed, new applicants would follow those, while ones filed under the original policies would need to follow them.
"I think the first document was very good and I’m still proud of it and our third-party engineer is proud of it, but it provides language and it’s the first step to a new function that operations didn’t provide in oversight,” Luka said. “It’s a lot of work where the municipality should have done it years ago. I think this is a positive and we’re moving forward as a municipality with this type of requirements, standards and policy.”
Among the changes proposed were removing redundant language that was duplicated, removing the assignment of department responsibilities, changing references and extending the review period from 21 to 30 business days to give time to complete review of applications.
“Both planning and [operations] are small departments, so when we have to go back and forth with consultants and we’re getting pieces of information reviewed by third parties, No. 1, it adds a lot of extra cost and it’s time, which is probably more important from a developers' perspective in my experience,” said Jared Kassel, the MD of Bighorn director of planning.
“It’s trying to set up expectations on behalf of the MD, relaying that to developers and making clear what and when is required at what stage. I think that’s the most critical piece as far as trying to reduce workload.”